Funding from the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer set MD Anderson’s Breast Cancer Nurse Navigators program in motion in 2009 in response to disturbing data about disparities in breast cancer deaths.
According to the Avon Foundation Forum, at that time black women in Houston were 45% more likely to die of breast cancer than white women. Today the program provides much needed services to Houston’s underserved breast cancer patients at Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital (LBJ). Nurse navigators ensure patients have a constant source of information, education, support and encouragement all the way from pre-diagnosis through survivorship.
Support from the walk continues to strengthen the program, awarding it $100,000 at the seventh annual event in April. This money will help fund two nurse navigators for the coming year.
More than 1,000 participants, including 126 breast cancer survivors, walked 39.3 miles over the two-day event, sleeping in tents overnight. Together, they raised more than $2 million to support 10 Texas organizations, including MD Anderson, committed to serve all patients, regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.
“These grants represent only a portion of the funding the Avon Foundation will distribute across the U.S. this year,” says Eloise Caggiano, breast cancer survivor and Avon Walk program director. “Every grant moves us closer toward our goal of a world without breast cancer.”
Since 1995, MD Anderson faculty and fellows have provided multidisciplinary care for thousands of LBJ patients, most of whom are without resources. Alyssa Rieber, M.D., chief of Medical Oncology at LBJ and an assistant professor in General Oncology at MD Anderson, has served these patients for the past decade. She participated in the Avon Walk for the first time this year.
“It was very challenging but extremely rewarding,” she says. “I made fast friends and was encouraged by strangers. The atmosphere of focus on a shared mission to cure cancer was apparent the whole weekend.”
The Breast Cancer Nurse Navigators program has helped more than 900 patients since it officially launched in 2010. Oftentimes, appropriate treatment may include enrollment in a clinical trial either at LBJ or at MD Anderson’s main campus, meaning every patient receives the same high standard of care.
“The Avon Foundation is proud to support the work of MD Anderson and the Breast Cancer Nurse Navigators at LBJ,” says Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D., executive director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade. “This important program is vital to our shared mission of providing access to comprehensive care to medically underserved breast cancer patients.”
Rieber is already recruiting patients, survivors and caregivers to join her in next year’s Avon Walk.
“Avon has been extremely generous to our program, and we’re thrilled to continue this partnership,” she says.