Fresh produce, gourmet foods and breast health at Monroe Farmers’ Market

Sandy Reyes, left, the mobile mammography coordinator for St. Vincent's SWIM Across the Sound, and Ray Elterich, an affiliate with the hospital, brought a van to the Monroe Farmers' Market Friday to raise breast cancer awareness.

St. Vincent’s Medical Center brought a white mammography van with a pink ribbon logo to the Monroe Farmers’ Market on the Town Green Friday afternoon. Though it was not the hospital’s main van used for screenings, representatives of the SWIM Across the Sound were on hand offering information pamphlets on breast health and to answer questions.

“The purpose of us being here is for breast cancer awareness and to help people understand how they can prevent breast cancer,” said Lyn Fine-McCarthy, executive director of St. Vincent’s Medical Foundation.

The van’s presence was part of Think Pink Monroe, an initiative to raise residents’ awareness during Breast Cancer Awareness Month this October. Think Pink Monroe Committee members had a table selling pink T-shirts for $15 donations.

In addition to the van, Dr. Anthy Demestihas, chairman of the Department of Surgery and Breast Cancer at St. Vincent’s, stopped by to provide her expertise on the subject.

“We have a lot of materials, for men and women, both on signs for early detection of breast cancer,” Fine-McCarthy said.

Early detection drastically increases the survival rate for breast cancer patients.

According to BreastCancer.Org, about 1 in 8 U.S. women or 12 percent, will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, and an estimated 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in 2019.

About 2,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2019, according to the website, and a man’s lifetime risk of breast cancer is about 1 in 883.

The SWIM supports patients

Sandy Reyes, the mobile mammography coordinator at St. Vincent’s, said all women should get a mammogram once a year, starting at age 40. “These are the American Cancer Society guidelines,” she added.

Reyes said women in Monroe are good about getting the regular screenings. However, one of the challenges in the Greater  Bridgeport area are some women who are undocumented immigrants are afraid the SWIM representatives will ask about their citizenship status.

“We never ask anything like that,” Reyes said. “The goal of the SWIM is to provide these women and men with access to care and support programs and financial support that their medical insurance doesn’t cover.”

Fine-McCarthy said the SWIM is there for everyone who needs help.

“If there are individuals here in Monroe who are uninsured or underinsured, we will take their information and somebody from the Breast Center will contact them to schedule a free mammogram,” she said.

Making ends meet

Fine-McCarthy expressed her appreciation for Bonnie Maur, who spearheaded Think Pink Monroe, and its committee members for raising money for St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound. She said all proceeds will benefit cancer patients.

“There are many women, I’ll say 50 percent, who are single moms, the sole support of their families who are working while diagnosed,” she said. “Then they are out of work for months for surgery and treatment and they have a mortgage, utilities, car payments and taxes to pay.”

Fine-McCarthy said those patients who are referred to the SWIM submit information on their cancer status to be eligible for financial assistance.

“The Breast Fund is used to help those patients with some of their bills and get them on their feet again,” she said. “We want them to concentrate on getting well, not on worrying about an eviction.”

During Think Pink Monroe’s Think Pink Palooza on the Monroe Town Green Tuesday night, Fine-McCarthy told the story of a single mother of three elementary-school-aged children who was diagnosed with breast cancer.

When the doctor told her she would need surgery, the woman said she couldn’t do it until September, when the kids were back in school because she had no one to watch them over the summer.

“The doctor said no and called St. Vincent’s SWIM, who got the kids into a day camp,” Fine-McCarthy said. “She had the surgery and treatment and is a survivor.”

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