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Thursday, April 25, 2002

Breast cancer survivor and Witness Project director to speak in Evansville on April 26

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Mattye J. Willis, deputy director of The Witness Project, social activist, and a long-term breast cancer survivor, will talk about the importance of detecting breast and cervical cancer early for African-American women at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 26 in the Crescent Room of the St. Mary’s Hospital downtown campus (formerly the Welborn Hospital building). The program is free and open to the public.

Willis got involved with The Witness Project while recuperating from a recurrence of cancer in 1994 in order to let her African-American sisters know the following things. Breast cancer is not a death sentence. It is okay to talk about it. Screening mammograms are virtually painless and very essential. Self-examination is not taboo. And women with breast cancer now have treatment options and should be told what they are and where to find them.

The Witness Project is a culturally competent, community-based, breast and cervical cancer education program. Cancer survivors and lay health advisors
strive to increase awareness, knowledge, screening, and early detection behaviors in the African-American population in an effort to reduce illness and death from cancer.

The Willis visit is made possible through a grant to promote awareness and provide cancer screening to African-American women in Vanderburgh County. The grant is supported by the Welborn Foundation, Inc. and administered by the University of Southern Indiana School of Nursing and Health Professions.

Debbie Kinney, the director of the grant, said that national research indicates African-American women have a lower incidence rate for breast cancer than Caucasian women, but their five-year survival rate for all stages of breast cancer is half the rate of Caucasians. She added that African-American women are twice as likely to develop cervical cancer and nearly three times as likely to die from it.

The USI grant is conceived as a three-year project, and it received first-year funding of $139,500.

The mammography unit of St. Mary’s Health Care Services will provide the mammogram for African-American women reached through the grant program. Family nurse practitioner students in the School of Nursing and Health Professions at USI will perform the Pap tests and breast exams. The Indiana State Department of Health’s Regional Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, the Greater Evansville Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute also are collaborators.



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