Penn Medicine offering free cancer screenings during the month of June

The university is partnering with the Community of Compassion CDC to hold a series of health care events for preventative care.

A woman steps towards a mammogram machine, guided by a health care professional.

A woman receives a free, 3D mammogram during a past mobile mammogram event. (Courtesy of Penn Medicine)

This month, Penn Medicine is offering free cancer screenings and 3D mammograms to West Philadelphia residents looking to identify early signs of disease.

Penn Medicine is partnering with Siemens Healthineers to operate a 43-foot mobile mammography imaging unit at Fresh Grocer — a supermarket grocery store chain at 421 S. 69th Street in Upper Darby — from Monday, June 5 through Friday, June 15.

Penn Medicine and its Department of Radiology have done free cancer screenings for West Philadelphia neighbors for three years in a row now, providing more than 400 free breast cancer screenings to individuals seeking preventative care.

This year’s events, which include a Community Health Fair on Sunday, June 11, are expected to meet or exceed last year’s number of attendees of 350.

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Penn Radiology faculty will not only be doing screenings, but also providing health resources, including take home testing kits.

Reaching underserved communities is key in this effort, said Linda White Nunes, vice chair of inclusion, diversity, and equity for the Department of Radiology at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine. “In almost every common or high frequency cancer, including breast cancer, there’s a 41% higher cancer mortality rate for Black women compared to white women.” The same stark contrasts can be observed with other cancers.

“Prostate cancer is 113% higher rate for Black men compared to white men and colorectal cancer mortality rate 31% for women and 44% for men higher in Black people than compared to white people,” she said.

Nunes said that it’s important for underrepresented communities to undergo regular screenings to decrease mortality rates and catch cancers when they’re more treatable. She also said that finances and insurance often play a role in people not getting screened.

“We found through our community partners that individuals were also worried about a subsequent positive diagnosis,” she said.

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Linda White Nunes at an event in front of a mobile mammogram screening truck.
Linda White Nunes, MD, MPH, vice chair of inclusion, diversity and equity for the department of Radiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, at a past mobile mammogram event. (Courtesy of Penn Medicine)

Nunes also said that not having health insurance is also a factor that contributes to these health disparities, which is why Penn Medicine has offered this service insurance free.

This is also the second consecutive year that Penn Medicine is partnering with West Philadelphia nonprofit Community of Compassion CDC, a community group that serves the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of the city.

Since 2001, Community of Compassion CDC — formerly The Church of Christian Compassion in 1981 — has helped pilot holistic programs to promote health and community development.

Cobbs Creek is considered a “family oriented community,” said Terrilynn Donnell, executive director of Community of Compassion CDC.

During Donnell’s tenure with the nonprofit, she began to learn that most residents, particularly Black women over the age of 50, had never gotten a mammogram.

“We found that that was kind of alarming,” she said.

“We see in this community that a lot of our Black and brown people don’t necessarily always follow up with their health care,” she said. “Community members sometimes don’t like to go to the hospital.”

Donnell said that breast and lung cancer are very prevalent diseases that residents of Cobbs Creek face. She also said that many community members also live with hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.

This led the Community of Compassion CDC to forge a partnership with Penn Medicine to help address these health issues.

“We wanted to make this community healthier. And so we wanted to bring that quality health care here to the community,” Donnell said.

Support for WHYY’s coverage of health equity issues comes from the Commonwealth Fund.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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