Baltimore City Cancer Program Saves Lives
A Baltimore woman credits the Cancer Program for catching her breast cancer
at an early stage and providing the assistance that made her treatment possible
Lizzie Myers can't say enough good things about the Baltimore City Cancer Program.
As one of 41 million uninsured Americans, she has nothing but praise for the
early cancer detection effort aimed at working women who earn too much to be
eligible for the government's Medicaid program, but who don't get health insurance
from their employers.
"I am so grateful for the Baltimore City Cancer Program," said Myers,
who had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast in September of 2002, after
being diagnosed through the program. "There is no way that I would ever
have been able to afford this treatment on my own."
program provides free breast cancer screenings at five University of Maryland
family health centers throughout West Baltimore. Patients can also get free cervical cancer Pap
smear tests at any one of the UniversityCare locations.
The program's budget comes from the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund, a
statewide initiative established as a result of the state's tobacco industry
The Baltimore City Cancer Program's objectives are:
- To make sure that
uninsured men and women in the city of Baltimore have access to care
- To help reduce the
number of cancer deaths in the state
- To educate men and
women about cancer risk and prevention
the program is open to all men and women over the age of 40 without health
insurance, it targets African-American men and women. Despite the fact that
statistics show that breast cancer is much more common among white women than
black women, black women tend to die from the disease much more often.
"Because many African-American women don't have health insurance and can't
afford to see a doctor on a regular basis, they are less likely to have their
breast cancer diagnosed early enough to be treated successfully," explained
Jimmie Drummond, Jr., M.D., medical director of the five UniversityCare family
who is also a clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland School
of Medicine, said that in addition to screening, the program also sponsors
community outreach and education. Health educators visit churches, malls,
cultural festivals, nail salons and other venues where there is a possibility
of reaching people at risk for cancer.
"This program is important because it saves lives," Drummond said.
"Because of it, women aren't showing up in emergency rooms in the advanced
stages of cancer."
A Prompt Diagnosis and Excellent Care
Myers got the results of her initial, abnormal mammogram shortly after her
59th birthday in August 2002. Two weeks later, she got a second,
diagnostic mammogram, which confirmed that she had a tumor.
"They did a biopsy on the tumor that same day, and a few days later called
to tell me it was malignant," said Myers.
Myers' doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Center decided to remove
the tumor by performing a lumpectomy. This involves taking out the tumor, but
sparing as much of the surrounding breast tissue as possible. Lumpectomies are
usually followed by radiation therapy and sometimes chemotherapy to ensure that
all of the cancer is eradicated.
Myers' surgery was scheduled for September 30th, only a few weeks
after her diagnosis. The weeks leading up to the operation, however, were difficult
for Myers. She said her surgeon, Bradford Carter, M.D., of the University of
Maryland's division of surgical oncology and an associate professor of surgery
at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, helped to alleviate her anxiety
by answering all of her questions and providing her with a lot of information.
"I really like to know what is going on, and I ask a lot of questions,"
Myers said. "Dr. Carter put me at ease because he explained everything
to me. He told me how he would locate the tumor's precise position, and exactly
how he was going to remove it. He explained every little detail to my satisfaction."
Following her lumpectomy, Myers began a round of radiation
treatments. By January of 2003, she had completed all 33 of them.
"The Baltimore City Cancer Program has really helped patients who otherwise
would have presented with breast cancer at very advanced stages," said
Myers' radiation oncologist, Edward Kiggundu, M.D., assistant professor of radiation
oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "When a patient
goes undiagnosed, they suffer excruciating pain and their odds for survival
Myers, who has gone back to work, the timely treatment she received in the
program has allowed her to resume her normal activities and retain her vibrant
"I feel great," Myers said. "People tell me all of the time
how good I look, and how I dont look sick. Honestly, I never really felt all
that sick, just tired at the end of my [radiation] treatments."
credits the care and attention she got in the program for much of her
"Everyone here has been so nice, sweet, loving and caring towards me,"
Myers said. "It really makes a difference when you know that your doctors