Skip to main content

Warning message

Click here to learn about Beebe's COVID-19 Recovery, including scheduling appointments.

Tunnell Cancer Center Expands SOS2 Initiative --Targets Breast Cancer Disparities in Sussex County


For the second year, Beebe Medical Center’s Tunnell Cancer Center has received a grant from the Philadelphia Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization to fund breast cancer screening and educational efforts targeting Sussex County’s minority, uninsured and underserved populations.

The Sharing Our Stories, Saving Our Sisters (SOS2) program uses professional cancer screening nurse navigators and lay health navigators to reach women who, through lack of health insurance, health knowledge or other reasons, have traditionally not been diagnosed until the later stages of breast cancer. Mortality rates, for example, in the African-American population are higher than in the Caucasian population.

The SOS2 program provides regular and free breast health education, targeting uninsured and underinsured women, as well as clinical breast exams and mammograms. It also covers the cost of co-pays if the women are financially eligible.

Since this program was initiated in 2010, more than 3,400 women have been educated. Of those, 900 were navigated for screening and 200 had their mammograms funded by the Komen grant. Partnerships also have been created with several community organizations to reach out to even more women.

“We are extremely proud to accept this grant,” says Jeffrey M. Fried, President and CEO of Beebe Medical Center. “It reflects a recognition that the Tunnell Cancer Center is committed to the early diagnose and treatment, as well as to high quality cancer treatment.”

SOS2 is part of Tunnell Cancer Center’s overall cancer prevention program in which cancer nurse navigators and lay health navigators attend events and visit churches, schools and community centers, spreading the word about the importance of screening for breast, skin, colon and prostate cancers. Free screenings are offered throughout the year.

Beebe surgical oncologist James Spellman Jr., MD, said that between 1993 and 2007, the percentage of African-American women in Sussex County screened for breast cancer increased from 40% of the population to 64%.

“Lives are being saved.”

Dr. Spellman was a speaker at the recent Delaware Health and Social Services Department press conference to announce the state’s progress in battling cancer. According to the just released report, “Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Delaware 2003-2007,” state cancer rates are dropping. In 2002, Delaware had one of the highest cancer rates in the nation. The rate has since dropped to the 12th position.

Delaware is now third in the nation for breast cancer screenings, with 82% of women screened. Delaware also erased disparities in colon cancer between African-Americans and Caucasians. The report can be found on the website for the state Department of Public Health:

“No other state has the cancer care program that Delaware has,” Dr. Spellman said. “We have eliminated disparities in colon cancer. No other state has done that.”

Dr. Spellman recalled that in 2002 a story in The News Journal reported that the state faced a serious problem with its cancer rates. Dr. Spellman, Nicholas Petrelli, MD, Medical Director of the Helen F Graham Cancer Center and Christiana Health Care System oncologist Stephen Grubbs, MD, traveled the state reviewing the cancer data that was collected.

“We found that the information being collected was bad,” he said. “Without correct data, you can’t make good decisions.”

The result in 2002 was the initiation of a statewide effort with newly created Delaware Cancer Consortium at the helm. Former Governor Minner established the state cancer program that funded many initiatives, including hiring cancer care navigators at each hospital and having the Delaware Cancer Treatment Program pay for up to two years of cancer care for those who could not afford to pay.

Dr. Spellman also credited Dr. Paul Silverman, DrPH, Associate Deputy Director for Health Information & Science at the state Division of Health, and the Department of Epidemiology for working so diligently in improving the system.

“The state’s Cancer Program that pays for treatment for eligible patients, as well as out reach, increased screenings, nurse navigators and cancer care coordinators throughout Delaware reflects the collaborative approach that has contributed to the decrease in cancer rates and the improved survival rates,” says Cherrie Rich, RN, Executive Director of Oncology Services for Beebe Medical Center.

Breast Health Forum – March 29
Free mammograms for women who qualify, as well as clinical breast exams, and breast health education, will be offered monthly throughout 2012. The next scheduled event is on Thursday, March 29, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Tunnell Cancer Center on Route 24 in Rehoboth Beach. All women 18 years and older should have a clinical breast exam, and all women 40 years and older should have a yearly mammogram.

Pre-registration is required for a no-cost mammogram and clinical breast exam prior to the event. To inquire about eligibility for screening, please call (302) 645-3100, ext. 2718 or (302) 645-3169. Free transportation can be arranged to and from the screening site.

Beebe Medical Center is a not-for-profit community medical center with a charitable mission to encourage healthy living, prevent illness, and restore optimal health with the people residing, working, or visiting in the communities we serve. For more information, please visit us online at