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Grant will boost UIC’s cancer screening efforts in three city neighborhoods

University of Illinois Cancer Center

The University of Illinois Cancer Center is in the Illinois Medical District, on Chicago's Near West Side. | Google Streetview

Residents in three Chicago neighborhoods will benefit from early screening for cancer, thanks to a grant to the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

The $1.5 million grant from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation will help remove barriers to early cancer detection in Austin, Humboldt Park and South Shore, the University of Illinois-Chicago announced last week. With the money, the cancer center will screen an estimated 1,800 people over the next three years, looking specifically for the types of cancer most affecting those communities.

In Austin and Humboldt Park the program will focus on cervical cancer prevention and screening in partnership with Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave, and Norwegian American Hospital, 1044 N. Francisco Ave.

In South Shore, the focus will be on colorectal cancer prevention and screening. They will work with the University Illinois’ Health Mile Square Health Center, 7037 S. Stony Island Ave., and Project Brotherhood – a community-based organization addressing poor health among black men.

Dr. Robert Winn, the cancer center’s director, said Monday that the point is to gain people’s trust and serve them closer to where they live, “which means not having people take three buses and a train to get to us.”

Karriem Watson, associate director of community outreach and engagement at the cancer center, said the old approach — waiting for patients to come to you for cancer screening — has “resulted in more health disparities” because it “increases barriers to care” among high-risk populations.

“If we can equip and collaborate with community hospitals, community health clinics and community partners, we can then begin to address those issues of access and awareness,” Watson said.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.