DPH’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Program Celebrates 20 Years of Saving Lives

October 28, 2015
This year, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) has a special reason to commemorate Breast Cancer Awareness Month – its 20th anniversary and the great success of its efforts to protect women from breast and cervical cancer.
BCCP’s humble beginnings started in 1994 when the Division of Public Health (then part of the Georgia Department of Human Resources) secured a $1.25 million grant from the state’s Indigent Care Trust Fund provided by the Department of Medical Assistance (currently known as the Department of Community Health).

The funds allowed Georgia to implement a statewide mammography screening program call BreasTEST for eligible older, low income women without health insurance. 

In 1995, the former Chronic Disease Prevention Section Director, Carol Steiner, wrote the original grant application awarded to Georgia by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Under Steiner’s leadership, the program was able to increase the number of eligible women receiving both breast and cervical cancer screening through public health departments.

Since that time, BCCP has grown significantly and now screens about 15,000 women annually for breast cancer and more than 30,000 for cervical cancer with the support of federal and state funding.

Over the years, the program has also assumed a leadership role in providing education on topics within cancer research that have public health implications, such as hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.

The development of its Breast Cancer Gene Screen website has enabled BCCP to educate patients and providers on the importance of a patient’s health history when evaluating their cancer risks. Understanding this vital health information could potentially prevent the disease.  

The past two decades have been an exciting journey of growth for BCCP and program manager, Cathy Broom, whose name and leadership have become synonymous with its efforts. Broom is preparing for retirement next year and reflected on the stories that have inspired her throughout the years.

“There have been many wonderful survival stories from women served by our program,” Broom said. “I’m inspired by their stories, especially when they call to personally thank our program for giving them access to screening and follow up services that saved their lives. Without this program, these women in Georgia may not have had access to critical cancer screening and diagnostic evaluation.” 

This month, the program will host its official 20th anniversary event to celebrate two decades of excellent public health work and commemorate the lives of women who survived breast or cervical cancer, those that are currently in the midst of their battle against the disease and even women who lost their battle with cancer.

DPH Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. and other community leaders will be featured event speakers, in addition to past and current BCCP participants who will discuss their personal experiences with the program.

The upcoming celebration is not just another event to Broom. It will be an opportunity for her to inspire others to keep the fight against breast cancer going.

“It is not easy to leave the BCCP state team and all the wonderful nurses with whom I have had the privilege to work, even when you know it is time to pass the baton,” she said. “The program is not about any one person and my hope is that it will continue to serve Georgia women who are in most need of these screenings.”

She continued, “I’m humbled by what the past 20 years have contributed to creating a healthier Georgia, and excited to see how it will continue to provide support, resources and hope to women all across our state.”

Visit DPH online to learn more about breast cancer, BCCP and the resources it provides women statewide. 

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