Non-Profit Breast Cancer Clinic Helps Uninsured Patients

There are around half a million uninsured women in Harris County. Those women have few places to go for breast cancer screening and treatment These are the problems being addressed by a non-profit breast cancer clinic called The Rose. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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The Rose looks like a quiet, soothing doctor's office. The colors are muted. Pink accents in quilts and pictures are scattered around the rooms. It looks nothing like a typical charity clinic. Rose Co-Founder and CEO Dorothy Gibbons says that's because the women who come here aren't treated like charity cases, they're treated like patients.

"All of us have someone, or have been there for whatever point in our life, at some point that we didn't have insurance and thank you God that we didn't have a major disease to deal with. So we understand what that's like. And when a woman comes to our centers, you're not going to know whether she's sponsored or not. You're not going to know whether you're sitting next to a sponsored woman because all of that's done in the background. We want that woman to feel just as special and valued and honored as we think she is."

More than 200,000 women will develop invasive breast cancer this year and an estimated 40,000 women will die of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Gibbons says the death rate among uninsured women is even higher, because it can be difficult for them to take time out to seek treatment.

"When it comes between I need to go and have my appointment or I have a day I can work, you know that day I can work can mean groceries, rent paid, and so sometimes they don't always get to that appointment, they don't always get there. So you know, it's real important for our navigator to be right there to make sure that if they can't make it we'll reschedule. because we understand that part of it."

Early detection is the key, but uninsured women have few options for affordable mammograms. Judy Pareya was one of those women. Her husband lost his job in a steel factory. The Pareyas decided to start their own small business, but they couldn't afford health insurance. So she went to The Rose for her annual mammograms.

"Then one day, they come back and I have a lump. And that's when my real trip with The Rose started. So they set me up and I'm telling you, it's almost like a blur to me. I had breast cancer. I couldn't possibly have breast cancer -- it wasn't in my family, I hadn't felt a lump. I found it through my just yearly mammogram, thank God."

Pareya, who has been cancer-free for six years, credits The Rose with saving her life. The Rose treats both uninsured and insured patients. About half of the organization's funding comes through their insured clients, which is put toward the treatment of uninsured women. The other half comes from some small grants and community fundraising. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

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