According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. Currently, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13 percent.

Each year, about 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women, and about 42,170 women will die of breast cancer.

Because breast cancer touches so many lives in America, October has been designated as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I interviewed two local organizations that provide services and resources to patients and their families in the local area: the Breast Cancer Resource Center and the American Cancer Society.

I was surprised to discover how the coronavirus crisis has affected breast cancer service providers. Below you can also read about how COVID-19 is affecting breast cancer services, the basic services these two wonderful organizations provide, special activities planned for October, ways they collaborate with other providers, and ways you can support them financially.

How has COVID-19 affected your service delivery?

Breast Cancer Resource Center

“It’s been such a tough year for many, especially our immune-suppressed clients hungry to connect and just receive support contact and be heard,” said Silvana Kelly, executive director of the BCRC. “It is so important for us to stay connected so the clients know they are not alone, and breast cancer isn’t a death sentence. We immediately pivoted to a virtual platform using Zoom as it is accessible from the comfort of home.

“Also, we are making wellness calls to check in on clients in treatment, and at least one staff person is at the center to answer calls, and or meet 1-to-1 employing masks and safe distancing, and/or arranging virtual meetings.

“All of it has been done with the clients’ safety and well-being in mind, and keeping staff safe as well. Breast cancer diagnosis doesn’t stop during a pandemic, so neither can we stop offering support and guidance, and, above all else, hope.”

Silvana Kelly, executive director of the Breast Cancer Resource Center

Silvana Kelly, executive director of the Breast Cancer Resource Center in Santa Barbara. (Breast Cancer Resource Center in Santa Barbara photo)

American Cancer Society

COVID-19 has affected the ability of the organization to meet face-to-face with its cancer patients. However, it still helps them through its 24/7 Cancer Information Service at 800.227.2345. It also helps people via, where patients or caregivers can look up resources or download information.

Its Road to Recovery program is on hold for now. Through the program, volunteer drivers pick up cancer patients, drive them to treatment, and bring them home at no cost. However, it’s still looking for drivers to train so that when things open up, volunteers will be ready to drive.

For more information, call 800.227.2345.

Please describe your basic services.

Breast Cancer Resource Center

The BCRC has shifted to virtual support services, including support groups and integrative care/wellness programs that are now provided through Zoom.

“Many of our clients have adapted well to it, and I am happy for the access and success,” Kelly said. “BCRC staff is also available by phone to arrange 1-to-1 support, and set up Zoom support peer-counseling, return calls and do wellness check-in with the clients.”

Live Learn Lunch, a series of virtual educational sessions, are conducted every first and third Friday of the month. The October lineup started last Friday with “The Art of Self-Care” as part of Pink Week. It will continue Oct. 9 with “Bone Health,” featuring oncologist Dr. Julie Taguchi and family physician Dr. Silvia Corral, and Oct. 16 with “Imaging for High-Risk Patients” by Dr. Laurel Hansch of the Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center.

American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society offers a variety of resources for breast cancer patients and their caregivers. There’s the Cancer Information Service with live specialists available 24/7 at 800.227.2345. They are always available and can send resources and information immediately to the caller. The specialists are expert listeners who can help direct the caller to help they didn’t think about, such as insurance information, clinical trials or financial resources.

Reach to Recovery is the ACS program through which breast cancer survivors mentor newly diagnosed women with breast cancer. Reach volunteers are available anytime to talk with a new survivor. It’s helpful to have someone to talk to who’s been through it before.

Before COVID-19, Reach to Recovery volunteers often met in person with the patients, but now it’s by telephone.

In addition, is a great resource with deep information on prevention, early detection, treatment, recovery and resources. is the American Cancer Society website that has every kind of cancer listed with information that can be forwarded or shared.

Do you have any special activities planned for October?

Breast Cancer Resource Center

Every year, BCRC conducts Pink Week, which provides a series of webinars for those in treatment, survivors and caregivers. Click here for more information. This year, Pink Week was Sept. 29 through Oct. 2.

American Cancer Society

Throughout October, ACS is working to educate women about the importance of early detection to fight breast cancer. In addition, it is hosting local events throughout Southern California and the nation through its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer campaign. Traditionally, there’s a large walk with thousands of people in downtown Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Pier, Ventura, South Bay, Orange County, Inland Empire and beyond.

Because of COVID-19, to keep cancer patients and participants safe, it has planned more socially distanced events. In Santa Monica and South Bay, ACS is hosting a Car Parade with breast cancer survivors and supporters (people can stay in their cars).

In Orange County, Inland Empire and Los Angeles, it’s hosting a local scavenger hunt through which survivors, caregivers, family and friends can drive (or participate virtually) to iconic places in their area, shoot selfies, upload online/post about it, and gain points for fun competition and prizes. In Ventura, it’s hosting a Scavenger Hunt at the harbor.

Which organizations do you collaborate or partner with?

Breast Cancer Resource Center

BCRC works with the Organic Soup Kitchen, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Women’s Imaging Center, Michael Vogel Ph.D. (support group for men), CeCe Jackson MFT (support group for women), Dr. Silvia Corral, the Ridley-Tree Cancer Center, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health and the ACS. It also has a handful of integrative care practitioners who are helping with virtual services.

American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society’s mission statement is to Save Lives, Celebrate Lives, and Lead the Fight for a World Without Cancer. It saves lives through cancer research and educational programs. It is the No. 1 nonprofit funder of cancer research, and has funded 49 scientists who’ve gone on to win the Nobel Prize.

ACS celebrates lives by honoring cancer survivors at its Making Strides event, Relay for Life events, gala events and more throughout the year. It leads the fight for a world without cancer by partnering with other cancer organizations (nonprofit organizations, hospitals, health systems, schools and community groups) throughout the year and throughout the nation.

One example is that ACS has led the national Colorectal Cancer Roundtable for many years, gathering leading groups and medical systems together to work together to increase the number of people being screened for colorectal cancer, which is largely preventable. Over several years, there are more people getting screened, which saves lives.

For breast cancer, ACS had volunteers and staff many years ago (in the 1980s) who led the fight to get legislation passed so that mammography would be a covered expense through medical insurance.

Also, the fight continues for health equity. The ACS’ sister organization, ACS Cancer Action Network, leads the charge now on legislative matters, such as access to care.

Do you have any special fundraisers coming up or anything you want to say to potential donors?

Breast Cancer Resource Center

“The Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara fosters hope when it’s needed most, and right now our support services are more critical than ever,” Kelly said. “At this time, when there is such a need for human connection, the BCRC is here to listen, empower, inspire as well as provide practical support, guidance and resources from diagnosis through survivorship.

“The BCRC is continuing to provide our support services virtually, and we need your help to ensure that we can continue to offer all of our essential services free of charge. Please make a donation ( and consider offering your support with any amount to the BCRC today.”

American Cancer Society

The ACS encourages women, men, families, friends, worksites, churches, friends and community organizations to join its Making Strides Against Breast Cancer events this October. To get details on the local event, visit to view all of the locations, or look them up by community, such as,,,,, and

To chat with someone, call the ACS anytime at 800.227.2345 for donations or questions.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. Click here to read her blog, or click here for previous columns. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or The opinions expressed are her own.

— Dr. Cynder Sinclair is a consultant to nonprofits and founder and CEO of Nonprofit Kinect. She has been successfully leading nonprofits for 30 years and holds a doctorate in organizational management. To read her blog, click here. To read her previous articles, click here. She can be contacted at 805.689.2137 or The opinions expressed are her own.