Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October by offering free mammograms to residents of the Third Ward community.

The sorority decided to focus on breast cancer because, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Black women are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease, despite doctors diagnosing the disease in African-American and white women at about the same rate.

Also, Black women are more often found to have triple-negative breast cancer, an aggressive type that frequently returns after treatment. Through its Mobile Mammography Unit, the sorority hopes to decrease those alarming statistics.

“We tried self-examination, and that just doesn’t go far enough. We wanted women of color who can’t afford mammograms to have a way of receiving that care free of charge,” said Dr. Glenda Glover, international president for AKA.

The mobile unit was the brainchild of Glover as part of the sorority’s national health programs. The South Central Region is the first region to host the AKA Mobile Mammography Van and Screening Event on the campus of Texas Southern University. Over the next four years, the van will travel all over the United States. The goal is that it will reach all 10 regions.

“We were happy to be able to reach indigent communities and those who can’t afford breast exams,” said Katina Siemian, South Central regional director for AKA. “Since the Affordable Care Act, many people assume that everyone automatically has insurance and that just isn’t true. So, we’re happy to be here providing a service,”

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, herself a breast cancer survivor and a member of AKA, applauded the unit because it provides outreach and education. She said the efforts support legislation she’s working on to educate about triple negative breast cancer.

“My dream is that as we move toward the 2018 election, is to have my bill and the effort of increased funding actually raise more numbers in getting our national institutes of health to focus on the very unique research of the triple negative breast cancer factor,” she said.