Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S., affecting one in eight over their lifetime. Early detection is crucial for successful treatment, according to the American Cancer Society. However, many women, particularly those from underserved communities, face barriers to accessing screening and diagnostic services.

Rachel Brem
Rachel Brem, MD

The Brem Foundation, created by Rachel Brem, MD, director of the Breast Imaging and Intervention Center and program leader for Breast Cancer at the George Washington University Cancer Center, aims to improve breast cancer outcomes for women of all backgrounds through research, education, and advocacy.

To address transportation barriers and ensure access to timely breast cancer screenings for women in need, the Brem Foundation partnered with Lyft on Wheels for Women, which provides free rides to and from screenings for women in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, with plans to expand the initiative nationwide. The foundation offers a variety of other resources including financial assistance and support programs.

The Brem Foundation and Lyft’s “Wheels for Women” initiative offers free rides for breast cancer screenings for women in need in Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

One of the foundation’s key goals is raising awareness about the importance of early detection. Regular screenings are essential for all women to know their risk and take proactive measures.

Black women in particular face an elevated risk of developing a more aggressive form of breast cancer at a younger age. Other factors such as family history, having dense breasts, age, and lifestyle can also play a role.

The foundation’s newly launched online risk assessment tool, CheckMate, enables women to utilize their personal and family medical history information to assess their breast cancer risk. The results can be discussed with their health care provider to determine the most appropriate screening strategy.

Christine Teal
Christine Teal, MD

Brem also recently co-authored “No Longer Radical: Understanding Mastectomies and Choosing the Breast Cancer Care That’s Right For You,” with her colleague Christine Teal, MD, director of the Breast Care Center at George Washington University.

The book was inspired by Teal’s own journey undergoing a double mastectomy in 2011, a procedure considered radical at the time. It presents a comprehensive overview of the procedure, providing information about breast conservation and mastectomies to help women make the best choice for themselves.

“I got a lot of pushback from various colleagues who said I didn’t need to [write the book],” Teal says. “And it just made us wonder how many women out there are wishing to at least explore the option of mastectomies, whether it’s for prevention or [after] a diagnosis of breast cancer.”

Brem, also a breast cancer survivor, underscores the significance of empowering women with knowledge and encouraging them to become active participants in their health care. She stresses that they should not hesitate to seek second opinions or challenge insurance decisions if they have concerns about their health.

“The foundation really believes in self-advocacy and raising your voice,” says Brem. “Nobody knows your body as well as you know you.”●

This article was published in our January/February 2024 issue.