About 10 years ago, Dr. Marek Rudnicki noticed a dangerous stigma among his Polish community--women were afraid of talking about breast cancer.
The mind-set was reflected in Polish women's low mammography rate: 25 percent compared with 78 percent among their white counterparts, Rudnicki said.
"If someone had heart problems, people would say, 'He is ill, but he will recover,' but if a women had breast cancer, it was seen as a death sentence," said Rudnicki, who is a surgeon at the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. "I wanted to change that perception."
So he started the Polish American Breast Cancer Awareness Program to educate Polish women about the importance of self-exams and mammograms and about how detecting breast cancer early on can save women's lives.
On Saturday, Rudnicki and a team of 10 Polish doctors will donate their time an offering free breast exams and mammograms for uninsured women.
The breast awareness event will start at 8 a.m. at Olson Auditorium, Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital, at 836 W. Wellington Ave. During the 10-hour event, the women will participate in a required forum, where they will learn about self-exams and breast cancer. The Polish women who participate in the forum will receive a slip for a free mammogram.
Every year, Rudnicki organizes two events on North and South sides. Since the event started nine years ago, more than 1,200 uninsured Polish women received free mammograms, he said.
Organizers say that many of the women receiving the free mammograms are undocumented and would have a hard time paying for mammograms.
Photo credit: The Amber Coalition
© Community Renewal Society 2011