Awareness and Action

Help is available locally for those diagnosed with breast cancer.

The Cancer Alliance of Marion County, in partnership with HUGS Charities, works to help and support local cancer patients and their families. The alliance, in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, recently shared these statistics:

• In the United States, 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and it
is the second-leading cause of death from cancer.

• In Marion County, the age-adjusted death rate from breast cancer is 14.5 percent, compared to the state rate of 9.8 percent.

• The recommended screening test for breast cancer is mammography and it
has been proven to significantly reduce breast cancer mortality risk by 30 percent.

• Screening utilization rates for women 40 and older in Marion County are below Florida as a whole and have been decreasing since 2007. Roughly half of Marion County women of screening age obtain their yearly mammogram, but increased awareness of the disease, access to prevention and early detection can save lives.

Amy K. Roberts, a licensed clinical social worker with the Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute and chair of the alliance, says early detection outcomes may include decreased stress, better quality of life and survival.

“For those diagnosed with breast cancer, the institute offers social work programs free of charge to anyone living in Citrus, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties, regardless of where they choose to have their cancer treated,” she shares. Those services include mental health counseling, support groups and a resource room with wigs, hats, scarfs and literature.

“We believe in giving back to the community and supporting anyone coping with a cancer diagnosis, struggling to adjust after a cancer diagnosis, or a family member of those dealing with cancer,” she offers.

According to Roberts, those needing assistance to obtain breast cancer screenings locally may find help through Michelle-O-Gram, which provides screenings for the unfunded or needy ( and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program, through the Florida Department of Health, which may provide free screenings for those who qualify (

Jennifer McKathan, a regional Cancer Support Strategic Partnerships Manager with the American Cancer Society, says they provide one-on-one breast cancer support (Reach to Recovery) a 24/7 cancer support hotline, transportation and lodging assistance, and other patient programs and services (

The National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., offers additional information and resources, including a full October calendar of daily discussion topics ( OS

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