For the past 22 years Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO) has been laser focused on supporting local patients and survivors of breast cancer through free mammogram screenings, mentoring, community education, support groups and more. But in recent years, the organization has noticed a disturbing trend.
Breast cancer is typically thought of as something diagnosed in women over 40. That’s the age at which most people begin getting regular screening mammograms.
Yet roughly 5% of the breast cancer patients supported by BCFO in 2021 were younger than 35 years old. That’s an increase over the 1–2% in the five years prior. However, despite the growing number of patients under 35, there are few programs dedicated to supporting people in that demographic who are diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, Missouri’s existing Show Me Healthy Women program only offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings for women over that age.
In response to the growing trend and the growing need, BCFO has launched U-35. The U-35 program provides diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies to patients under 35 who are uninsured or under-insured. Based on prior demand estimates, U-35 will likely serve about 22 people in its first year. That’s up to 22 cases of breast cancer that might not have been diagnosed otherwise.
“That might seem far-fetched for some, but when your choices are expensive testing that could then lead to expensive treatment, or putting food on the table the next day, you make the choices that will keep life going day to day and put off those non-immediate needs,” says BCFO’s Director of Community Engagement Kathryn Wall.
BCFO announced U-35 at their A Time to Share and fundraiser, where 16 of the people walking in the event’s annual fashion show were women who’d been diagnosed when they were younger than 35, illustrating the need for U-35 in our community.
In August, BCFO met their $6,000 fundraising goal that has allowed them to qualify for a $100,000 Gannett Foundation grant opportunity to support U-35.
Now, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (and all year long too!), you can help BCFO continue to support U-35, the rest of their programs and local breast cancer patients and survivors by visiting bcfo.org or calling 417-862-3838 for more information.