Breast cancer awareness: How a nonprofit is helping women who can’t afford mammograms, treatment

ORLANDO, Fla. — We talk about mammograms and early detection all the time.

When Channel 9 anchor Nancy Alvarez was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, she was told a mammogram saved her life.


Most women know they should get one yearly, but far too many put it off because they can’t afford it.

For the uninsured and under-insured, there’s also the fear of how they would pay for treatment if something was found.

Channel 9 took a closer look at how these barriers impact care and how a nonprofit in our community is doing everything it can to help.

Alina Sanchez began doing regular self-exams after her best friend died of breast cancer at 25.

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Then one day she felt something and went to a doctor.

She was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer.

Her treatment plan was terrifying for two reasons: First, it included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Second, Sanchez was uninsured and could not pay her bills out of pocket.

“I was at my wits end,” she said. “I needed my treatment to survive for my daughter.”

Enter Libby’s Legacy.

READ: A county-by-county guide to free or low-cost mammograms in Central Florida

Robin Maynard Harris started helping women with their battles after she lost her mom, Libby, to breast cancer in 2007.

Libby lost her job and was uninsured at the time of her diagnosis. It was an ordeal her daughter now sees day after day.

“Breast cancer does not discriminate ... The treatment plans do discriminate,” Maynard Harris said.

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A recent study of almost 200,000 breast cancer patients found that insurance coverage plays a major role in survival.

Minority women are more likely to be diagnosed with later-stage cancer and are more likely to face a worse prognosis, more challenging treatments, and lower survival rates.

47% of the cases in the study of racial and ethnic disparities in the stage of cancer at diagnosis were attributed to being uninsured or insured by Medicaid.

“We hear breast cancer awareness month, well guess what? A lot of women are fully aware they need a mammogram, but they can’t afford one. We need the action behind the awareness,” Maynard Harris said.

READ: Fact checking 9 myths about breast cancer

That means more support and funding for organizations like Libby’s Legacy that work to ensure women don’t fall through the cracks.

“The women that come to us have lumps, have symptoms, they need more than just a mammogram that’s free in October. That’s not enough,” Maynard Harris said. “What we need are corporations, donors, people to realize we’re here locally. We’re saving the girl next door. Literally.”

The key is to support women emotionally and financially, from the beginning to end.

Just as Libby’s Legacy did for Sanchez, who said she owes her life to the love she found behind the bright pink door.

If you’d like to help Libby’s Legacy, we have information on how you can connect with them here.

Click here for 9 Family Connection’s comprehensive coverage of resources related to Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Nancy Alvarez

Nancy Alvarez,

I joined the Eyewitness News team in May 2010 and am currently co-anchor of Eyewitness News This Morning alongside Jamie Holmes.