Mammography van comes to RVC

MLK Center hosts breast cancer screenings

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Promoting October’s designation as Breast Cancer Awareness month, village officials partnered with the MLK Community Center to offer residents free screenings in Nassau University Medical Center’s mobile mammography van.

Deputy Mayor Kathleen Baxley and Sharon Sheppard, assistant director of the MLK Center, secured the services of the van on Oct. 14. The screenings included a breast examination by an NUMC nurse, a mammogram and instructions for home breast self-examination for residents over age 40.

Both Baxley and Sheppard are breast cancer survivors, which motivated them to provide the service and help community members detect any worrying signs early, in the hope of saving their lives. “Having gone through it ourselves, we know that early detection is key,” Baxley said. “The sooner you get checked, the better.”

Patients did not need to be insured to be screened. “That’s key for people who don’t have insurance,” Baxley said, “because they’re not going to go to a doctor, but they can get checked here.”

Baxley worked with the RVC Breast Cancer Coalition to bring the van to the village. County Executive Laura Curran helped Baxley get in touch with NUMC. Sheppard, meanwhile, signed people up at the MLK Center’s Community Day block party last month. The schedule for the three-hour event filled up quickly. The large van also caught the attention of passers-by, leading to a few walk-ins.

About a dozen women took advantage of the opportunity, including Lois Mitchell, a Rockville Centre resident. “I’m very happy to have Sharon here,” Mitchell said of Sheppard. “I call her my sister, who I love dearly. What she went through made me make sure that I get a mammogram every year.”

Mitchell brought her husband, Chauncey, on the couple’s eighth wedding anniversary.

Breast cancer is the second-most-common cancer among women in the U.S., and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death rate for the illness is higher among Black women than white women.

Baxley and Sheppard said they hoped they could make the screenings an annual event, at which they can get the word out to men as well. About one out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is found in a man, according to the CDC.

Despite her diagnosis in July 2020, Sheppard has continued to run the MLK Center’s food pantry — which was renamed in her honor last December — along with her twin sister, Karen Mobley.

“I want to save lives,” Sheppard said. “I don’t want a woman to walk around with the disease that I have, so if it can be prevented and we can save at least one life, then it’s a success to me.”

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