COLUMBIA, SC – October 6, 2020 – In view of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) hosted its annual Ann “Tunky” Riley Pink Tea event last week to celebrate breast cancer survivors and honor those who have lost their lives to the disease.
Jacqueline Miller, Center for Disease Control (CDC) Medical Director for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program shared her perspective on addressing the widespread impact of breast cancer in the state by highlighting the success of South Carolina’s Best Chance Network.
“The hope is that we can break the barrier to let groups who – because they don’t have insurance, because of where they may live – are not able to get the care that they need,” noted Dr. Miller on the state-funded breast and cervical cancer screening program. “Not everyone comes in to see the doctor, so we also need to find women where they are. We’re doing a lot to expand services and identify the women who are in disparate populations to help improve health equity to more women.”
The Best Chance Network has continually been successful in bridging health gap in communities across the state, screening more than 14,000 women over the last year. From screening to diagnosis, the program functions to provide services to uninsured and underinsured South Carolinians who otherwise might never have received them.
“Our focus is on women who are at 250% above the federal poverty level and lower, but really those women who can’t afford to buy insurance, but maybe also make too much money to qualify for the Medicaid program,” added Dr. Miller. “Uniquely through our program, we’re able to work with each state’s Medicaid program so that if you indeed get cancer you can qualify for a special waiver through the Medicaid program where you can actually have all of your treatment provided.”
Celebrating breast cancer survivors and remembering those who have lost their lives to the disease, the Pink Tea is named for former First Lady of South Carolina, Ann “Tunky” Riley, who died from breast cancer in 2008 after decades of fighting the disease. At a time when cancer conversations were not held as openly or publicly as they are today, Riley used her strong voice to encourage women to get mammograms and other lifesaving cancer screening methods – becoming one of the first public figures in the state to speak about her battle with breast cancer.
“Tunky was very big on education and her responsibilities as First Lady and felt that it was her duty to help educate South Carolinians about breast cancer prevention and early detection,” shared Beth Johnson, Government Relations Director for South Carolina. “She would be proud to see her event continuing to do just that, particularly during these tough times and through the call of Dr. Miller who we’re proud to have had as our keynote speaker.”
Breast cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death for all women, and the leading cancer diagnosis in South Carolina. Black cancer patients are more likely to be diagnosed at later stages than whites for breast and cervical cancer, partly due to lower screening rates and timely follow-up of abnormal results.
This year alone, nearly 5,000 South Carolinians will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 700 will die from the disease.
The afternoon also featured moving stories of breast cancer survivors, advice from leading oncologists across the state and a new Real Conversations session to close the event which brought together breast cancer patients to speak openly about their diagnosis, particularly while navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. A full recording of the event can be found here.
About ACS CAN
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) is making cancer a top priority for public officials and candidates at the federal, state and local levels. ACS CAN empowers advocates across the country to make their voices heard and influence evidence-based public policy change as well as legislative and regulatory solutions that will reduce the cancer burden. As the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate, ACS CAN is critical to the fight for a world without cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.