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Avon Foundation calling

Heather Macdonald, right, associate director for the Avon Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention program at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, and Charite Ricker, left, a genetic counselor, with Eloise Caggiano, director of the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, in Santa Barbara (Photo/Courtesy of Avon Foundation)

Breast and ovarian cancers can affect everything in a woman’s life, but they’re typically diseases that most 25-year-old women don’t have to face. Some women that age with a genetic predisposition to these cancers, however, are not as lucky.

These women are among the patients that the Avon Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention program at the Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center aims to help. Thanks to a renewed grant of $250,000 from the Avon Foundation for Women, the program will be able to expand next year.

According to Heather Macdonald, medical director for the program and assistant clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and breast surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, program patients are seen Fridays at LAC+USC’s Breast Diagnostic Clinic.

A nurse assigned to the program helps patients navigate through the medical system, assisting them with tracking tests, follow-ups with doctors and scheduling appointments.

“This program serves the needs of women who are at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer [at 80 percent and 60 percent, respectively], and who typically have to interact with seven different departments to get the testing and treatment they need — which is at times denied them because of their young age,” Macdonald explained.

Currently, the program assists 80 to 100 women and has a waiting list of women wanting to take part. The new grant will allow the program to contract extra genetic counseling help to expand the number of patients who can be seen and to create a peer-support community.

“These are rough experiences for patients who don’t have friends going through the same thing,” she said. “We needed to create a medical home at County Hospital for these patients.”

Marc Hurlbert, executive director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade, said, “Our mission since our founding in 1955 has been improving and saving women’s lives, and we believe that the Avon Familial Breast and Ovarian Cancer Prevention Program fits that mission.

“We’re proud to be the largest corporate philanthropy dedicated to women’s causes globally, and we’re happy to support cancer prevention through USC,” he added.

Macdonald expressed gratitude for the grant.

“We were so excited when Avon called to renew their support of this program,” she said. “They have really taken us on as a partner, and we’re so appreciative. The grant will enable us to provide so much more than the bare-bones services. We believe that the care we give shouldn’t vary by insurance, affordability or where you go.”

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