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Phone: 832-667-5843

Methodist Cancer Center expands breast screenings in east Houston

Houston, TX - 4/22/2013

By offering free breast cancer screenings and health care to women in east central Houston, Methodist Cancer Center physicians hope to broaden their battle against a devastating disease that disproportionately impacts the poor.

A $100,000 grant from the Avon Foundation for Women will pay for screening mammograms at the Denver Harbor Breast Clinic. Funds will also pay for diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies; sustain the hiring of a full-time bilingual patient navigator who can help English- or Spanish-only-speaking patients understand their medical options; and support a breast oncology physician, high risk clinic director, and genetic counselor at Denver Harbor Clinic. The Avon grant will also help to identify high risk patients, provide twice-a-year clinical exams, support prevention therapy, and provide medical intervention for identified breast cancer patients.

"With at least 30 percent of Harris County's population under-served, we hope that this program will be the beginning of a concerted effort to bring breast cancer screening to the whole population," said Jenny Chang, M.D., Methodist Cancer Center director and project lead. "The Methodist Hospital has a multidisciplinary breast center, one of the few in Houston accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers, and we strive to offer the best breast care to all our patients."

Chang says breast cancer screenings should start in July at Denver Harbor Clinic.

East central Houston is a "medically underserved area," according to the U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services. This designation is based the ratio of doctors-to-patients, infant mortality rates, and the percentage of residents who have a low incomes or who are elderly.

Denver Harbor is a predominantly Latino neighborhood of about 30,000 residents. Approximately 70 percent do not have a high school diploma, more than 50 percent are unemployed, and about 25 percent live below the poverty level. Methodist's Breast Clinic currently operates at the Denver Harbor Clinic one day a week. Since 2005, Denver Harbor has been the primary care clinic for Methodist's 12 family medicine residents, and three full-time faculty members.

Grants from Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the American Cancer Society also support Methodist's Breast Clinic.

"Many factors contribute to health care disparities among the poor, including awareness, education and access to health care, as well as time to be seen by physician, time to diagnostic tests, time to treatment, and access to clinical trials," said Angel Rodriguez, M.D., breast oncologist at The Methodist Hospital. "With these grants, we are able to address all of the above."

Rodriguez was presented a symbolic check from the Avon Foundation at the conclusion of yesterday's Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

To speak with Jenny Chang, please contact Gale Smith, The Methodist Hospital System, at 832-667-5843 or gsmith@tmhs.org.