The Witness Project is a Breast and Cervical Cancer education program. Pastor Jacqueline Talley is working with the South Carolina Cancer Disparities Community Network (SCCDCN), a network aiming to reduce cancer disparities in South Carolina, especially among African Americans.
Studies tell us that cancer is more aggressive in African Americans. While white Americans are more likely to get cancer, African Americans are more likely to die from cancer.
In South Carolina, there will be approximately 3,000 new cases of breast cancer this year. New cases of breast cancer among African American women are rising. In our state, the death rates for cervical cancer are higher than the rates for the United States. African American women are 39% more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than white women.
Death rates are too high in South Carolina. The reason for this is simply because people are being diagnosed at later stages. Women must get their mammograms and pelvic exams. If Breast and Cervical Cancer are found early, the survival rates are 98% and 92% respectively. This is why early detection and screening is so important.
High unemployment rates, having no health insurance and resources just not being there are issues that have kept women and men from accessing health care. The Witness Project is pointing people to places that are making free or low cost screenings available. They are informing individuals about what local resources are available in their own town.
Pastor Jacqueline Talley, Lay Health Advisor, is the project coordinator for Cherokee, Spartanburg, Greenville and Anderson counties. She is also one of the state trainers. Pastor Jacqueline Talley, along with a team of women, has been taking the program out to churches, communities and work sites.
This team of advisors and cancer survivors are increasing awareness by bringing their presentations primarily to African American churches throughout the Upstate. The idea is that we witness about different experiences in our lives and we witness to save souls. Cancer awareness is the kind of “witnessing” that saves lives.
On Saturday, August 13, the group set up their program at Allen Temple CME Church in Gaffney, SC, where a mixed group of women and men met together. The presentation was very strong. Surprising statistics were shared and the need for screening was clearly communicated.
An educational video was shown which included women who were sharing their own story about their fight against cancer. Many shared that cancer had been a subject that no one wanted to talk about and that there is a need to talk about it. These were women who for the most part had little knowledge about cancer prior to their being diagnosed with it.
Cancer is now affecting everyone. Those who attended the presentation expressed that they were either a cancer survivor or that they had a relative or friend who had cancer. Many in the room knew someone who waited too long before going to a doctor.
During the program, lay health advisors shared vital information including how to do a breast self-examination and just what to look for. Role models, women who were there to share their story, talked about how they were diagnosed with cancer and the treatment they received. The emphasis as they shared was placed on survival.
One of the cancer survivors on the team, referred to as a Role Model, shared her testimony. She had not been sick. She just went in for a checkup. She was not a smoker and she did not drink alcohol. She took care of herself. She did not do any of the things that one would relate to getting cancer and yet she had been diagnosed with cancer. Because she had a checkup, the doctors found it in time. She is an eleven year cancer survivor and shares, “God was there with me eleven years ago.”
Vital information concerning cervical cancer and HPV along with the importance of Pap tests is being shared through the presentations. Over and over again, the message of screening and early detection is heard. Cancer does not have to be a death sentence. The ladies come to spread their knowledge.
Educational programs like the Witness Project can actually help to lower the death rate. Dr. Rachel Mayo, professor at Clemson University and Project Coordinator for the state, is responsible for bringing the Witness program to South Carolina. She says, “there is evidence that the program is working and that it is providing intervention that works. The program is moving women into screenings. Two hundred and fifty women have been trained and they have reached 4,000 women throughout the state. 1,000 women that we know of in the Upstate and more than 1,500 women throughout the Lowcountry have had screenings because of the program. These are women who otherwise would not have gotten the screenings.”
Education is the key. Raising awareness raises questions and convinces people to get to their doctors for their checkups.
Cancer materials are provided and can be used in the churches and communities to educate the people. If you would like to request cancer information or community presentations contact Pastor Jacqueline Talley at 864-357-8489.
“Only through a true partnership with the community, can we get to the bottom of the problem and act on what is known.”
(The month of September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month and free screenings are being offered in the Greenville Area. For information about screenings or presentations concerning prostrate cancer, contact Bob Milks of the Us TOO Prostrate Cancer Education and Support Group at www.ustoo.org or call 864-414-7780.)