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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Survivors, supporters, advocates gather for 3rd annual Breast Health Summit

R.E.D. Alliance works to end healthcare disparities.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — A breast cancer diagnosis can literally turn your life upside down, but there's hope.

That's what Eyewitness News Anchor Andrea Morehead shared, during a health summit where women like her — who are fighting, or have fought, a very aggressive form of cancer — got some good news.

The third annual Stay Alert, Stay Alive Breast Health Summit brought together health professionals, caregivers and survivors to discuss solutions to reduce breast cancer disparities.

Jackie Brooks is a one-year cancer survivor.

"It's kind of emotional because I have a daughter and I just want to make sure that she understands that she needs to know her body and to make sure that she takes care of herself and to be empowered," said Brooks.

Black women in Indianapolis are 41 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than white women. But The R.E.D. Alliance and Pink-4-Ever organizations, are working to reduce that statistic by providing education and access to mammograms.

"Through our partner St. Vincent's we have the mobile mammography van here and we provided mammograms but we also have all of these organizations here and our health and wellness expo that can also connect people," said Lisa Hayes, The R.E.D. Alliance Executive Director.

The summit connected people with a number of wellness resources, including God's Pharmacy with free healthy food.

"In fact we had a participant come by and say she doesn't particularly eat fruits or vegetables but this makes her want to eat fruits and vegetables and we have a bounty of it," said Anita Nibbs, a R.E.D. Alliance Volunteer.

And there were plenty of questions about why African-American women get triple negative breast cancer more than others.

Dr. Bryan Schneider, Director of Indiana University Health's Genomics Program said, "We suspect it's somewhat genetically engrained. So our ancestry probably dictates the breast is likely to form this kind of tumor and it's a problem because it's likely the type of tumor that doesn't have good targeted therapy."

But on March 9, 2019, the FDA approved a new type of therapy called immunotherapy. The hope is that it reduces the reoccurrence of cancer for African-American survivors.

"A revolutionary treatment that allows a patient's own immune system to attack the cancer. This is an amazing new discovery for triple negative breast cancer, one that we think will have major impact on survival," said Dr. Milan Radovich with Indiana University Cancer Center.

The resounding message from The R.E.D. Alliance is that it takes everyone to be "all in" to help eliminate breast cancer.

Nina Coley, a one-year cancer survivor said, "They took me under their wings and they showed me different resources and how to be an advocate for myself and others."

To learn more, click here.