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MHHC Helps In The Fight To Combat Breast Cancer

MHHC Helps In The Fight To Combat Breast Cancer
BRONX, NY, October 25, 2022-- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common cancer found in women who live in the US, behind lung cancer and certain skin cancers, is breast cancer. A woman’s chance of getting breast cancer is dependent upon a combination of risk factors, some of which are unchangeable. A few examples of unchangeable risk factors are a woman’s age, certain aspects of reproductive history (i.e., age of first period, menopause), genetic mutations, breast density, and family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

Who exactly is at a higher risk for developing breast cancer? Is there a specific combination of risk factors that determine your chance of developing the disease? While it is extremely common for a woman to have some of the unchangeable risk factors related to breast cancer, it is also possible that a woman who has one or more of these unchangeable risk factors, to not ever be diagnosed with breast cancer. All risk factors are different, and this makes it difficult to determine a woman’s chances of developing the disease based on risk factors alone.

On the bright side, there are so many lifestyle changes that women can make to decrease their chances of developing breast cancer—these are called changeable risk factors. Some examples of risk factors that women can have control over are level of physical activity, weight, taking hormones (i.e., oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy), alcohol consumption, and some aspects of reproductive history (i.e., age of first pregnancy and the decision to breastfeed). For over a decade, the Bronx has been the unhealthiest borough in New York State—out of the 62 counties, the Bronx comes in last at #62. In the Bronx, the rate of breast cancer diagnoses has been steadily increasing over the years. However, since 1976, the rate of mortality caused by breast cancer has significantly declined. Among the five boroughs in New York City, the Bronx has the highest rate of prevalent obesity and alcohol consumption, and the lowest percentage of adults who have exercised in the last 30 days. All these factors are related to changeable lifestyle choices that are correlated to diseases like breast cancer.

There is a significant disparity between the health of populations of white women and minority women in the US. Although white women are more likely to develop breast cancer compared to Black or Hispanic women, there is a disproportionate number of breast cancer related deaths in minority women who live in low-income neighborhoods in New York City. Minority women who live in the Bronx may be aware of the ways in which they can act preventatively against breast cancer but may not always have access to the resources necessary. A reliable medical provider can make a world of difference for women when it comes to taking care of their health. Getting regular mammograms and reproductive health screenings are essential aspects of preventative health care for women.

MHHC is a Federally Qualified Health Center that aims to provide its community with the highest level of health care and support. The center has been providing women’s health services in the Bronx for over 40 years, starting as a Women's Health & Birthing Pavilion, which was the first out-of-hospital, midwifery-run childbearing center in a low-income community in the US. MHHC continues to stay pro-active in its goal of providing preventative health care to its community of women through providing maternal and reproductive health education, free mammograms, and breast examinations. MHHC also focuses on providing workshops and access to resources relevant to women’s health, maternal health, and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an example of one way in which new mothers can lower their chances of developing breast cancer, while simultaneously providing the highest nutritional value to their newborn baby.

Unfortunately, the Bronx has the lowest percentage of women who exclusively breastfeed, compared to the four other boroughs. MHHC’S WIC program regularly holds educational sessions on breastfeeding to explain the benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies. Education is at the core of preventative care within MHHC’s overlying mission to create a healthier Bronx.In its continuous mission to solve the issue of racial disparities in women’s health care, MHHC has extended its reach to the women of the East Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn with its Maternal Center of Excellence and Women’s Health Center at the new MHHC Brooklyn location, which opened this fall. MHHC’s role in preventing breast cancer for its communities across the Bronx and Brooklyn is education, access to healthcare, insurance, and support.

Although breast cancer is a serious disease that affects many women across the US, the sooner that breast cancer is detected, the higher the survival rate is for a woman diagnosed with the disease. Yearly mammograms are the best way for women to catch breast cancer when it is still localized, meaning that it has not yet spread to other parts of the body. According to the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, for females with breast cancer, the rate of survival is much higher than the mortality rate. In 2019, there were 264,121 new cases of breast cancer reported with an 84% survival rate. Even after a diagnosis, there is high hope for survival through early detection practices and appropriate post-diagnosis treatment.

MHHC’s Senior Practice Manager and breast cancer survivor, Daphney Quinones, has been a part of the organization since 2019 and is a real-life example of a woman who was diagnosed with the disease without the risk factor of having a family history of breast cancer. Having a family history of breast cancer is one of the risk factors that can potentially increase a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer. During her first mammogram, 37-year-old Daphney was diagnosed with stage 3 Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS), a non-invasive, localized, type of breast cancer that develops in the milk duct. It is more common for women over 50 to develop breast cancer, but it can also occur in younger women, such as in Daphney’ s case. “I felt like I was suspended in time. Everything happened very quickly.” Daphney states about the moment she received her shocking diagnosis at her first ever mammogram. She was lucky to receive high level attention and care by her medical provider to begin the post- diagnosis treatment plan as quickly as possible— “My oncologist was super informative and actually picked up the phone to connect me with a surgeon within their network immediately.”

Daphney began to receive chemotherapy every day for 6 months, one month after her diagnosis, in preparation for the mastectomy.

Working in healthcare and then being diagnosed with breast cancer was a hard experience for Daphney, but she said she “felt supported and loved by her [my] colleagues.” Daphney is now cancer-free and feels called to share her story to educate women on ways breast cancer can be detected early as well as to provide support for women going through similar experiences. As a breast cancer survivor working in healthcare, Daphney shares, “Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions—be brave enough to advocate for yourself.”

MHHC strives to fully educate their patients on how to decrease their chances of developing complex diseases such as breast cancer. The women’s health providers also give female patients the support and resources necessary in the case of a breast cancer diagnosis. Early detection and time are of the essence in ensuring a higher chance of surviving this type of disease. During the month of October, MHHC has been bringing awareness to the importance of breast cancer screenings and mammograms through having them readily available to its entire community, including employees, through mobilized pop-up events or on-site. MHHC honors women during Breast Cancer Awareness month by raising money for the disease through selling breast cancer awareness merchandise and collecting donations. If you wish to support MHHC’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, visit MHHC’s main building at 85 W Burnside Ave any weekday in October, from 11 am - 2 pm to donate or buy a shirt—all proceeds will support Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On October 19th, 21st, 24th, and 27th, MHHC will host breast health education sessions—follow @mhhc_inc on Instagram for more information.

If you or anyone you know would like to get a mammogram screening or be examined by a women’s health provider, visit to find a location near you or call 718- 716-4400 for more information.