On September 27, survivors, advocates, families and friends donned their pink attire and headed to NoDa Brewing Company for Pink Pint Night, kicking off Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Organized by Charlotte Radiology, Pink Pint Night featured food trucks, live music, and even an exclusive pink brew created by NoDa Brewing Company just for the night. Proceeds from Pink Pint Night benefited Levine Cancer Institute: Project PINK, a program designed to increase access to life-saving mammography screenings for uninsured women. We sat down with Mellisa Wheeler, Director of Disparities & Outreach at Levine Cancer Institute, to learn more about Project PINK.
Atrium Health Foundation: What is your involvement with Project PINK?
Mellisa Wheeler: I have been working with the Project PINK team for the last four years, planning events and working to educate the community regarding the importance of breast health.
AHF: How has Project PINK — a partnership between Levine Cancer Institute and Charlotte Radiology — impacted the Charlotte community?
MW: Each year more than 1,000 uninsured women across our region are offered free mammograms, diagnostic testing, and connection to follow-up care. So far this year, the program has identified 12 women with a cancer diagnosis. That is 12 women who otherwise would not have known about their illness or been able to access treatment.
AHF: Tell us about Project PINK Plus – how does it differ from Project PINK?
MW: Project PINK is a baseline program for individuals who have no evidence of underlying problems — no lumps, no dimpling, no nipple discharge, no rash. For women and men of any age [with identified problems], further testing is needed to get to the source of the problem. Project PINK Plus provides the funding to cover this advanced testing.
AHF: What do women need to be aware of when it comes to breast cancer screenings and their health?
MW: Early detection is key! A yearly mammogram, beginning at age 40 and followed up every single year, is critically important. For the 11 months in between mammograms, know your body by checking your breasts. If you have an issue, don’t wait. Get it checked and if you are worried about funding, call us!
AHF: Finally, what has been the most meaningful outcome you have seen from Project PINK?
MW: Project PINK is such a rewarding program as there are countless stories of women who have been helped. The one that sticks out most was at a screening a few years ago. It was a rainy day; simply miserable weather. One woman took the time to handwrite a sweet note on some scratch paper that thanked our team for coming out in the rain to offer care and it stated: “Thanks for coming out in the rain to care for our breasts, Project Pink is more precious than you think.” I carry that note every day as a reminder that no matter the barrier, Project PINK has an impact.
To learn more about Levine Cancer Institute: Project PINK, visit www.atriumhealthfoundation.org/projectpink/.