Everyone has someone in their life who has been touched with breast cancer. That is no surprise, as breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2023. For me personally, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago after she detected a lump during a routine mammogram. After the removal of this lump, she experienced intensive treatment - including radiation and chemotherapy - and while she was able to shift into remission, her life and mine were forever changed.
To be clear, great progress has taken place over the last twenty years, with the death rate for breast cancer in the United States dropping 43% between 1989 and 2020. Yet there is still so much work to do.
Of particular concern, breast cancer mortality rates in the U.S. still remain 40% higher for Black women than white women. And a recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study showed that the number of younger women diagnosed with breast cancer is steadily increasing.
The good news is that study after study has shown that early detection of breast cancer dramatically increases survival rates. The earlier a breast cancer is detected, the better the health outcomes.
Yet without access to healthcare, early detection of breast cancer is not possible. For many women, transportation poses a significant barrier to accessing necessary screening and diagnostic tests, causing delayed diagnoses – and more advanced cancers.
To address this, in 2019 Brem Foundation partnered with Lyft Healthcare to provide access to safe, efficient and reliable transportation for breast cancer screening appointments. Together, we launched Wheels for Women – the country's first and only free transportation program dedicated exclusively to breast cancer screenings and diagnostics.
As Breast Cancer Awareness Month concludes, we are pleased to announce that Wheels for Women has provided over 2,000 rides to women in need, breaking down access barriers to lifesaving tests.
Social determinants of health – including economic, political and environmental factors – have long created barriers to accessing care. Nearly 6 million people across the country miss or delay medical care because they lack safe, accessible, reliable transportation. Patients who report transportation access problems are 2.5 times more likely to have costly emergency department visits. Communities of color are disproportionately impacted; 55% of Black and 60% of Latinx cancer patients cite faulty public transportation as a major barrier to treatment.
“Lyft is committed to addressing health disparities in communities and in particular in breast cancer,” said Heather Foster, Head of Global Public Policy, Lyft. “Through our Wheels for Women collaboration with Brem Foundation, we’re closing transportation gaps to reduce disparities and promote overall health outcomes, with a particular emphasis on underserved populations.”
Patients who utilize the program are often uninsured or Medicare beneficiaries living close to the poverty line, and in many cases, face significant language barriers. Launched with three local medical partners, the program is now an active part of the cancer screening community, working with 15 medical provider partners throughout the D.C. Metro Area and Baltimore. Lyft and the Brem Foundation are working to further expand the program in 2024.
“Wheels for Women started in Washington, D.C. which has the highest death rate from breast cancer in the country. The program is scalable, with a turnkey model that can be replicated in markets all over the country,” said Clare Dougherty, CEO of the Brem Foundation. “We’re proud that we’ve provided [access to] over 2,000 rides so far, but our work is only getting started. We look forward to continued partnership with Lyft to break down access barriers, detect cancers earlier and save women’s lives.”
Heather Foster, Head of Federal & International Public Policy at Lyft