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Breast cancer foundation says awareness should be year round

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:43 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Breast cancer, like other cancers, is often best dealt with when caught early, however, when the pandemic began mammograms became harder to access and they slightly declined.

At just over 21%, the breast cancer mortality rate in Alabama is higher than the national average.

“Although the numbers are getting better, it’s still higher. And so we fight in here every day with our little staff to do what we can to save lives,” said Joy Blondheim, founder of the Joy to Life Foundation.

Joy to Life provides free mammograms through a partnership with the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (ABCCEDP) as they work to keep breast cancer at top of people’s minds even when it’s not October.

To qualify for a screening a person must:

  • Meet the age eligibility
  • Have an income at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines - 2021 Income Eligibility Guidelines
  • Are without insurance or who are underinsured

“When that phone rings and it rings frequently, there’s someone on the line that needs help,” said Jackie Butler, the screening director for Joy to Life.

Butler connects doctors’ offices to patients, and she is a breast cancer survivor. Before she worked for the foundation Butler received a call from Joy.

“That was the most encouraging phone call,” Butler said. “Just telling me, you’re gonna make it, you’re going to great. And I held on to that.”

Now on the phone calls herself, Butler says the pandemic had a slight effect on calls.

“We did see a slight slow down, but honestly, it probably was no more than a third. And then certainly it has just bounced right back up in the last several months,” said Butler.

“They cannot ignore a lump or any other sign of possible breast cancer,” Blondheim said. “During the present pandemic, we continued to pay for mammograms as best we could and let these women get their screenings that are so desperately needed.”

Joy to Life has helped provide 98-thousand screenings since its founding. Blondheim says the best way to help is with donations, a popular one she says is with their license plates.

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