By Brenda Phillips-Hong
At Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies, Sistah Strut is one of our premier events, and our goal is to celebrate breast cancer survivors, to raise money and to raise awareness about breast cancer screening and early detection.
Our work to promote early detection is one of the key reasons that we’ll recognize U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell as our Ambassador of Hope at this year’s walk, which is taking place Sept. 30 at Legion Field. We like to say that a “sistah” is not defined by race or even gender. It’s about shared spirit, attitude and intent.
Rep. Sewell more than fits the bill. She has long been a champion of policies that are in line with the mission of Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies. She has worked consistently over many years to expand access to healthcare, knock down barriers to care, and reduce health disparities overall.
But this year, we especially want to recognize Rep. Sewell for her work to ensure that patients will have access to cancer screenings, including new blood tests that can screen for multiple kinds of cancer. She is a lead sponsor of legislation (H.R. 2407) that would clear a path for Medicare to cover these early-detection tests for seniors in Alabama and beyond who are at highest risk of developing cancer.
Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to supporting people with breast cancer, as well as providing education about breast cancer in minority, low-income and underserved communities.
One of our chief goals at Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies is to educate women and men about the importance of early detection and the need for routine breast cancer screenings. Thanks to the community’s support for events such as Sistah Strut, we can work with healthcare providers to offer free mammograms to those who don’t have health coverage.
We also can host many community health events to remind women to maintain healthy lifestyles and stay on top of their annual screenings. (And while we are on the subject: If you are overdue for your mammogram, please schedule it now. Early detection makes a huge difference in your treatment options and your response to treatments.)
Unfortunately, for most other kinds of cancer, including ovarian and other women’s cancers, there are no regular screenings. Often, these cancers go undetected until they’ve gotten big enough or spread far enough to cause symptoms. They’re too often not found until they are at a later stage when they are harder to treat.
These new blood tests will help change that. They won’t replace existing screening tests, like mammograms and Pap smears. But through one blood sample, these tests can find many other cancers at an earlier stage.
But Medicare cannot cover the tests after they’re approved by the FDA unless Congress makes it possible, and Rep. Sewell has been leading the fight to make that happen. This year, they named the bill for Rep. Sewell’s mother, who passed from pancreatic cancer. Rep. Sewell has described her passion on the Nancy Gardner Sewell Act as turning pain into purpose.
Rep. Sewell’s efforts will promote earlier detection and better odds for so many patients. She is truly an Ambassador of Hope, and Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies is happy to recognize her work.
Brenda Phillips-Hong is the founder and executive director of Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies. The annual Sistah Strut will take place Sept. 30, 7:30 a.m. at Legion Field, 400 Graymont Ave. Birmingham Ave. 35204