Cancer Coalition receives grant from DCH

ALBANY — The Cancer Coalition of South Georgia was among 16 community organizations recently awarded a grant from the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) as part of an effort to help expand breast cancer screening and treatment efforts, officials announced Thursday.

A news release from DCH confirmed that the agency had awarded $1.1 million to organizations throughout the state via the Georgia ACTS (Access, Care, Treatment and Services) Breast Cancer Grant Program.

"Breast cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer death in women in the U.S., and almost 7,000 women in Georgia will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year," said DCH Commissioner David A. Cook in a news release. "When breast cancer is identified at an early stage through mammography and clinical breast exams, these mortality rates improve."

The Cancer Coalition received a grant valued at $50,000, which officials say will go toward ensuring that women in the region at highest risk are getting the screenings they need.

The effort will specifically target women who are underinsured or uninsured.

"We are working with Tift Regional Medical Center and two of its primary care clinics and the local public health district to identify (low-income) patients that are due for mammograms," said Denise Ballard, vice president for cancer prevention and control at the coalition. "We will help navigate them through the process (of getting their screenings)."

Half of the grant will be used for education and outreach, while the other half will go to assist uninsured and underinsured women who need follow up tests that are not otherwise covered by insurance, Ballard said.

"We are choosing a community with a slightly higher death rate. We want to make sure those that need (the screenings) have access to them," she said.

Funded through the sale and renewal of the breast cancer license tag, the Georgia ACTS Grant Program expands breast cancer education, screening, access and outreach. The grant amounts range from $35,000 to $50,000 for screening projects and up to $200,000 for treatment projects, officials say.

"While Georgia has been successful at increasing breast cancer screening rates, not all women — particularly those without health insurance — receive appropriate screening or treatment services," said Nancy M. Paris, president and CEO of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (CORE), in the release. "The work supported by these grants will help patients identify breast cancer at an early stage, thereby making treatment more effective and possibly saving lives."

Georgia CORE administers the grant program on behalf of DCH. The organizations receiving the grants are providing matching funds or in-kind support that equals or exceeds the amount of their grants, DCH officials say.