ADH Coordinates Statewide Efforts During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October; The late Dr. Joetta Wilkins Honored in Pine Bluff Area
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) BreastCare program coordinates efforts with a statewide network of providers offering no-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings and follow-up services.
Nearly 400 women die from breast cancer and over 2500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer yearly in Arkansas. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is the most common cancer for women in Arkansas and the second leading cause of cancer death for women in Arkansas and the United States. The state currently ranks as the 32th lowest for mammography and 46th lowest for pap tests. While the breast and cervical cancer screening rates among women in Arkansas have improved over the years, we still have a long way to go in improving the screening rates.
Cancers diagnosed at late stages (III or IV) are generally associated with poor outcomes and higher treatment costs. Women who are diagnosed at earlier stages have a greater chance of survival. Breast and cervical screening services are imperative for early detection and better treatment outcomes.
The Breast Cancer Act of 1997 was signed on March 11, 1997, by the Arkansas General Assembly, which led to the development of the ADH’s BreastCare program.
Women ages 21-64 can be screened for cervical cancer, and women ages 40-64 can be screened for breast cancer regardless of ethnicity or nationality. Since its inception, the BreastCare Program has enrolled over 128,000 women for breast and cervical cancer screening and diagnostic services. Additionally, the program provides educational information to communities about the importance of regular breast exams as well as the risks associated with breast cancer.
In the Pine Bluff area, several activities are being held in October in honor of the late Dr. Josetta Wilkins, the Black female Arkansas lawmaker who passed away at the age of 92, on Aug. 25 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS). Wilkins championed the 1997 law passage that secured over $71 million for breast cancer education, mammography, diagnosis, treatment and research.
Her commitment to breast cancer awareness led to the creation of the Josetta E. Wilkins Chair at the UAMS Arkansas Cancer Research Center in 2003. Her impact was further commemorated with naming the Jefferson County Health Unit in Pine Bluff as the Dr. Josetta E. Wilkins Health Unit