HOUSTON - In October of 2019, Beyonce's father, Mathew Knowles, shared his breast cancer diagnosis and treatment with FOX 26. He was also a speaker at Susan G. Komen's Houston Race For The Cure, but a year later, the event which draws thousands to Downtown Houston, presents only a handful of organization leaders at Buffalo Bayou Park.
“It’s been very important to stay connected to the community and breast cancer survivors,” says Community Navigator Pearl Burton. “Even though we are in a pandemic, breast cancer is still alive.”
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Burton has been cancer-free for 12 years. Without being able to hold the large gathering because of COVID-19, she and other survivors are sharing this year's virtual program and hashtag #RaceWhereYouAre as a part of the local charity's 30th-anniversary celebration.
In March, breast cancer screenings were put on hold, but have since restarted with extended hours, social distancing, and increased cleanings at some hospitals.
“The cancer detection rate is slightly lower,” says Dr. Angelica Robinson, Chair of the Medical Advisory Board and Director of Breast Imaging at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “Does that mean people have less breast cancer? No. They haven't come in to get the exams, and since they haven’t come in to get the exams, then they don’t know that they have breast cancer.”
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Dr. Robinson says one reason for the drop is lost jobs and lack of insurance.
Susan G. Komen is stepping in with connections to mammograms and treatment assistance, but the Houston branch is facing fundraising challenges.
For 2020, organizers lowered fundraising expectations for the race, aiming to raise $500,000 instead of the usual goal of nearly $2 million.
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Nationwide, the non-profit is also cutting staff to continue meeting needs.
“We're actually restructuring to become one organization instead of multiple affiliates across the country,” says Julie Voss, Regional Vice President and Executive Director of Susan G. Komen Houston. “We're centralizing all of that so there's more money to invest in the community and patients.”
During this Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the group is focusing on the message that early detection continues to be the best prevention, for men and women, even in a pandemic.