Health Team

New grant program aims to boost breast cancer care in northeast NC counties

Posted May 2, 2018 10:59 a.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 11:15 a.m. EDT

Preventing or surviving breast cancer in North Carolina may have a lot to do with where you live — northeastern counties are among the poorest in the state and rank among the highest in breast cancer mortality — but a new grant program aims to change that.

Caroline Pulley, 62, of Halifax County, is a breast cancer survivor. Her diagnosis and treatment came at the early age of 35.

"I have been doing really well, and I thank God that it was detected early," Pulley said.

The odds were against Pulley and other women living in northeastern counties of the state. Valencia Davis, who is on the board of directors for Susan G. Komen Triangle to the Coast, said screening and treatment resources that are plentiful in metropolitan areas are more scarce in the Roanoke Valley region.

"We're a very wide area and the income level is very low, so people are not able to get to the services," Davis said.

Now, money through the organization's Treatment Assistance program is helping to fill gaps of care in a three-county area.

"We want to create a 'pink print' in eastern North Carolina," said Audrey Hardy, the community health coordinator at Halifax Regional Hospital.

The "pink print" would cover Halifax, Edgecombe and Wilson counties.

The program would make available about $300 dollars per person for oral pain medications, anti-nausea medications, oral chemo, hormone therapy, child or elder care, transportation needs, lymphedema care and supplies, and durable medical equipment needs. Recipients must have active cancer and an income level at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

Organizers expect a big impact when the program is paired with existing coordinated services in the region.

"Halifax County and Roanoke Valley is on the rise," said Pat Peele, the breast health educator with Rural Health Group.

Peele said the goal is to raise the region from among the worst in the state for surviving breast cancer to above the bottom 20.

"We're the voice saying there's help out here, there's opportunity to help you to not necessarily have to die because you have breast cancer," Hardy said.

Halifax, Edgecombe and Wilson counties aren't the only ones in the state where Komen's grant efforts are at work, though — they are just hot spots for high mortality rates from breast cancer. Grant programs are strategically spread across counties from the Triangle to the coast, according to the organization.

People can help with the effort by signing up to run or walk the Race for the Cure this weekend in Research Triangle Park. The annual event helps raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer.