By Rebecca Walkup
Women Who Care is a local nonprofit organization with the mission to provide education and resources for breast cancer prevention in the Muskogee area.
The organization was founded in 2000 by Cassandra Gaines and Wren Stratton, both breast cancer survivors, and Muriel Saunders, cervical cancer survivor.
To achieve their mission, the group pays for screening and diagnostic mammograms for women who are unable to afford them. The program works by providing women with vouchers to present at EASTAR Health System. The vouchers are then submitted to Women Who Care for payment.
There are only three requirements for receiving vouchers. Women must be 35 years or older, unless they have a first-degree relative (mother, daughter, sister, or father) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer; they must have no other way to pay for the mammogram; and when requesting a voucher, they need to say whether they are currently having problems and require a diagnostic mammogram or are requesting a screening mammogram. There is no limit on the amount of assistance a person can receive from Women Who Care. The group will pay for screenings for multiple years if an individual remains unable to pay. In addition to serving women who contact them directly, Women Who Care receives referrals from doctors, the cancer center, and the radiology center. This year, the group began paying lab costs for all pap smears at Good Shepherd Health Clinic, and is developing partnerships to pay for pap smears at other free clinics in the community.
The second part of Women Who Care’s mission is to provide information and education on breast cancer and let people know that it’s OK to talk about breast cancer. The group especially works to reach minority women in the area. For Gaines, a major reason for creating the organization was to be a voice in the African-American community to bring awareness to the issue and increase early detection of the disease. More African-American and Mexican-American women die from breast cancer than Caucasian women. A major factor is that the issue is not talked about as much in those cultures, resulting in later diagnosis. Although breast cancer is highly treatable, survival rates are closely linked to early detection. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer detected in the first stage is 93 percent, while for breast cancer detected in the final stage the survival rate is only 15 percent.
The organization receives its funds primarily through private donations and fundraisers. The Pink Ribbon Luncheon fundraiser at Arrowhead Mall will be held Oct. 24. Tickets for the luncheon will be available at the mall. With these funds, Women Who Care has provided mammograms for hundreds of women.
To learn more about the program, make a donation, or request a voucher, contact Wren Stratton at (918) 869-8453.
To recommend an organization to be featured in an upcoming Nonprofit Buzz column, contact Rebecca Walkup at (918) 683-4600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.