Jefferson Co. Commissioner, breast cancer survivor Sandra Little Brown highlights local breast cancer partnerships

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Three years after Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Little Brown fought her own battle with breast cancer and won, she’s still working to help increase awareness about the life-threatening disease.

On Friday, she joined forces with St. Vincent’s Health System to host a community breakfast to highlight local partnerships that are doing their part in helping improve breast cancer awareness, research and care in the Birmingham metro area.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Veronica Wehby-Upchurch |  Executive Diector of Susan G. Komen North Central Alabama
  • Dr. Bo Xu | Chair of the Oncology Department at Southern Research
  • Beth Bradner Davis | Executive Director of the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama
  • Susan Sellers | President of St. Vincent’s Foundation
  • Caroline McClain | Manager of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center
  • Brenna Powell | Chief Strategy officer at St. Vincent’s Health System.

Local partnerships

The program highlighted the work of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, which is a collaboration between all Birmingham area hospitals, the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, and other community partners. Forge’s creation was first announced in 2014.

“This program brings together Birmingham’s wonderful healthcare resources with the goal of improving support and care for all people who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Caroline McClain, manager of Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center ahead of the event. “Forge works locally and in rural communities to remove barriers to care and gaps in service; navigate survivors and their families through diagnosis, treatment, and beyond; and support and educate healthcare professionals. Forge is constantly evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of survivors, their families, and the health systems. We are proud to provide exactly what they need, when they need it, and how they need it.”

The event also highlighted two Birmingham-based entities: Southern Research and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama, that are working to advance knowledge and develop new therapies for breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen’s North Central Alabama chapter discussed its work with local organizations and individuals to raise awareness about breast cancer, which is one of the most common cancers among U.S. women.

Breast cancer facts

The American Cancer Society estimates that 266,120 women across the country this year will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and almost 41,000 will die from the disease. The Cancer Society estimates that 3,760 of those cases and 670 of those deaths will be in Alabama.

Early detection and proper treatment can reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer. Over the past 20 years, progress in treatment and early detection has led to improved survival for people of all ages, races and stages of breast cancer. But experts say work remains to be done to ensure women are aware of the importance of regular screening and have access to tests that can find breast cancer early, when the chances of survival are highest.

Increasingly, attention also has been focused on the importance of continued follow-up care even after breast cancer treatment has been completed. Survivors may need ongoing emotional support, and their treatment may leave them at higher risk of other conditions, such as heart disease, that require ongoing attention.

“It’s exciting to see the work being done right here in our own community to meet all the needs – from raising basic awareness, to finding new treatments, to providing the best possible care over the long term,” said Brown. “There is more work to do, but we are making progress every day.”

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