With only 52% of eligible women being screened for cancer in Lake County, which has some of the highest last-stage diagnosis and mortality rates in the United States, Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospital had long sought a way to increase access to screenings. When Radiologist and Lead Interpreting Physician Dr. Anastasia Siatras discovered an opportunity to apply for the Bears Care Grant in 2013, she urged the breast care center to apply.
Upon receiving the grant that first year the breast cancer center applied, it created the No Woman Left Behind Program. This program allowed them to offer 3D screening, diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, and biopsies to underinsured and uninsured women in the area.
“The Bears Cares Grant has allowed us to reach out to women who are underinsured or uninsured and alleviate the concerns of payment for these screening examinations,” Siatras said. “We think that women should be able to get these screening exams regardless of their insurance or socioeconomic status.”
“It’s a really difficult thing knowing that we have so many women in this area who are not getting screening mammograms,” she continued. “The fact that the Bears Cares Grant has been able to give us the tools for us to reach out to patients and give them that is truly a wonderful thing.”
One objective of this program includes increasing the number of low-income, minority, and high-risk women getting mammograms. While this objective targets women from 40-64 years of age, the program has also allowed women younger than 40 to receive the services they needed.
From 2014-2020, the No Woman Left Behind Program has served 591 women in Lake County, 66 women in Porter County, 13 women in Jasper County, and nearly three dozen women from other counties and states.
Since 2013, the breast care center has been able to serve 705 women with the over $200,000 total it has received from applying for and securing the Bears Cares Grant every year. In addition to the money awarded to the breast care center from the charitable arm of the Chicago Bears, every year breast cancer survivors from the No Woman Left Behind Program have the opportunity to interact with the Chicago Bears.
Every September, survivors are invited to meet various players and eat at Halas Hall. Perhaps the most well-known event is the annual Pink Game.
“There’s a pink game that the Bears usually have that first Sunday in October,” said Jen Sanders, Manager of Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center. “They’ve taken some of the survivors that have been a part of our program to those games. They sent them a limo and took them to the field during half-time. It’s a phenomenal experience for the patients.”
Sanders said the No Woman Left Behind Program is run with hard work and care to ensure patients do not receive bills. Being able to help women get the care they receive regardless of financial obstacles has been and will remain the heart of this program.
“When these women come in here, we don’t worry about your socioeconomic status or what program you’re using, if they have insurance or if they don’t—we care about you as an individual,” Sanders said. “We don’t look at you and treat you differently because of what kind of insurance you're coming in with or if you have insurance at all. You’re our patients, we care about you regardless of your ability to pay. You are not our mothers, sisters or aunts but you are someone else’s and that matters to us.”
For more information about Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospital and the No Woman Left Behind Program, visit https://methodisthospitals.org/