TSU campus
Photo by Aswad Walker.

Texas Southern University is now providing breast cancer screening, among other services, for African American and other ethnic minority women in Harris, Grimes, Matagorda, Walker, and Wharton counties, as part of a grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The $1 million grant, which TSU secured in fall 2021, also provides patient navigation/barrier reduction services, and evidence-based culturally appropriate breast cancer awareness and education services for a population that has traditionally been underserved and at higher risk for breast cancer.

“African-American women have been shown to have worse breast cancer outcomes than other women and these worse outcomes are associated with advanced disease at diagnosis,” said Dr. Uche Anadu Ndefo, BCSPC co-program director and professor in TSU’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. “Our goal is to improve access to screening and prevention services to eliminate this disparity.”

The grant has re-invigorated TSU’s Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention Center (BCSPC), which was initially formed in 2018 with grants from Susan G. Komen for similar services but was limited to the Third Ward area. BCSPC services were suspended at the outset of the pandemic. The CPRIT grant expands the BCSPC by creating partnerships with Houston Methodist, community centers, churches and libraries, as well as collaboration with Federally Qualified Health Centers, which are instrumental to recruiting and outreach efforts.

Dr. Veronica Ajewole (left) and Dr. Uche Anadu Ndefo, both professors in TSU’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, are leading the Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention Center grant.

Through the CPRIT grant, TSU’s BCSPC will provide mammograms to 1,350 eligible African American and other ethnic minority women over a three-year period who meet criteria such as first-time or rarely screened, uninsured or underinsured, age 40 or above (or high risk if younger than 40), and living in the five-county region surrounding Houston. Mobile mammography is provided by The Rose and other partners for the convenience of the women who need it. In-clinic mammograms are available at seven different Houston Methodist Cancer Centers.

“Especially during the pandemic, it has been very challenging for women to access health care and screening services due to hesitation to seek care, decreased attention to self-care, and all the childcare responsibilities for women,” said Dr. Veronica Ajewole, BCSPC’s program director/principal investigator and associate professor in TSU’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. “This CPRIT funding is thus very timely and incredibly important in providing these services and addressing breast cancer health disparities among African American and ethnic minority women.”

Timely patient navigation services are provided to any woman with abnormal mammograms and these women will be followed by a patient navigator until they are deemed to not have breast cancer or have established breast cancer care. In addition to screening, women participants are offered breast cancer prevention education, patient navigation, and barrier reduction services such as scheduling services, appointment reminders and transportation assistance.

“We are delighted to support TSU’s Breast Cancer Screening and Prevention Center led by Dr. Veronica Ajewole (PI) and co-PIs, Drs. Uche Ndefo and Polly Niravath,” said TSU Vice President for Research and Innovation Dr. Michelle Penn-Marshall. “The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas grant covers the costs of breast cancer screening and diagnosis for uninsured and underinsured women. This project is evidence of TSU’s continued commitment to address minority health concerns and to eradicate health disparities within our community.”

As a result of CPRIT funding, TSU’s BCSPC will promote health equity and contribute to decreasing the incidence of breast cancer and breast cancer-related morbidity and mortality in medically underserved African American and other ethnic minority women in the community.

Women interested in receiving services can call 713-313-4424 or email breastcenter@tsu.edu for more information on scheduling no-cost mammograms, breast cancer education, patient navigation or any inquiries about BCSPC programs.

Services can also be requested via linktree at https://linktr.ee/TSUBreastcareclinic or by texting TSUBreastcenter to 855-264-9031. BCSPC has a social media presence (@TSUBCSPC) on Twitter and Instagram.

Texans voted in 2007 to create CPRIT and to invest $3 billion in the state’s unprecedented fight against cancer. CPRIT is now a $6 billion, 20-year initiative – the largest state cancer research investment in the history of the U.S. and the second largest cancer research and prevention program in the world.