Breast cancer patients and cancer advocates were shocked to learn last Thursday that Y-ME, a Chicago based, not-for profit breast cancer organization that has been helping patients across the United States since the late 1970s, abruptly shut its doors, filed for bankruptcy and terminated both its 24-hour hotline and website.
Beverly Shaw, mission delivery director for the American Cancer Society National Cancer Information Center (NCIC) – a 24-hour call service which handles more than a million calls each year – responded to the news, saying:
“The announcement took us by surprise. Y-ME was a key referral for breast cancer patients who requested immediate peer-to-peer support. We are always disappointed when a cancer support organization closes its doors and is no longer available.”
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers. About 1 in 8 women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. An estimated 39,510 women will die from breast cancer this year. Each day, NCIC fields more than 2500 telephone calls, and breast cancer is among the most common cancer call taken.
Shaw says newly diagnosed patients often have no idea where to turn. NCIC provides a critical opportunity for patients and caregivers to discuss the steps of a cancer diagnosis, treatment, post treatment and long term survivorship with people who know the full continuum of their needs. She offers this recourse for those wondering where to go:
“ACS continues to lean on our current programs and other referrals to help fill the gap. Being able to call NCIC — at (800) 277-2345 — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, guarantees there is always someone to talk to during those moments of panic and distress.
Our cancer information specialists and oncology nurses are trained to help reduce the caller’s stress and they understand that empowering a patient through better knowledge of their diagnosis and treatment can give them some control while going through this crisis.”
Last month NCIC reached a significant milestone, celebrating its 15th birthday and reaching more than 15 million phone calls. Shaw says one reason for the success is that these types of programs really resonate with patients and their caregivers.
“Callers are often surprised by the wide scope of information and resources available, as well as our ability to put everything into perspective. Many of our callers demonstrate extreme gratitude around the experience of just being able to talk to us.”
Anyone facing breast cancer can continue to turn to the American Cancer Society for free breast cancer resources, as well as countless other cancer assistance programs offering lodging (see: Hope Lodge), transportation assistance (see: Road to Recovery) and even support groups (see: Reach to Recovery and WhatNext). You can find these programs, as well as a list of other sources of cancer information by visiting cancer.org.