The actress' organization helps women who have a high risk of breast cancer with the cost of yearly preventative screenings

By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 23, 2017 at 03:42 PM EDT
Michael Tran/FilmMagic

A version of this story appears in the Oct. 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly, available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

In EW’s column Act With Me, stars share their personal stories about giving back. This week Christina Applegatespeaks about Right Action for Women, which assists women who have a high risk of breast cancer with the cost of their yearly preventative screenings.

WHY I TOOK ACTION

Applegate was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, but thanks to an MRI they caught it in early stages. While getting her initial tests prior to diagnosis, Applegate was told many young women who are high risk due to the BRCA gene or family history forgo yearly screenings due to the cost. “That really made me very upset,” she says. “My MRI saved my life, so that’s really what it was about was saving lives. An MRI can detect breast cancer years before a mammogram can.” She founded Right Action for Women to assist with the prohibitive expenses of cancer screenings.

WHAT THE FOUNDATION DOES

The foundation pairs women who are high risk with partnering patient services to help cover the costs of expensive yearly screenings, especially MRIs — this can be covering the cost of the entire screening or making up the difference when insurance falls short. Right Action for Women also wants to educate people about what it means to be high-risk and help individuals identify if they fall in that category. “If you look at the website we have a survey you can take to see if you are indeed considered high risk,” explains Applegate. High risk factors include carrying the BRCA gene and a family history of breast cancer. Next year, the foundation will celebrate its 10th anniversary and Applegate hopes this milestone will mark an expansion of the services they offer as well. “I would love for it to evolve into many other areas,” she says. “Providing BRCA testing for people, which also can be very costly. Outreach forums, essentially getting nutritionists and doctors and alternative medicine people to be on our board to be on the website for women to ask questions.” Applegate adds, “We want to be able to provide BRCA counseling for people – that’s when they find out they’re BRCA, to be able to meet with a genetic counselor and learn about what their options are.”

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Right Action for Women wants to educate people about what it means to be high risk for the disease and how to stay on top of warning signs. “These are not women with cancer – these are women who are tending their gardens, making sure they’re getting scanned regularly,” she explains about the women who receive financial assistance. The foundation pairs women in need with partnering patient services to get them necessary screenings. “We’re a baby foundation, but if we can impact these women’s lives on even a small scale, that’s doing something – these women depend on us to be there.”

Right now, they primarily offer assistance with the cost of MRIs as ordered or recommended by doctors. “You can detect something in a much earlier stage,” Applegate says. “As opposed to often times when you get to a mammogram they can’t really see the cells in that early a stage.” The foundation is helping save lives through their financial assistance and their ability to pair patients with local doctors and care providers.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Donate. As a small foundation, all money goes directly to patient costs. The more donations and funding Right Action for Women receives the more women they can afford to help (currently they assist around 100 women a year with screening costs), as well as begin to expand into providing options for early-detection gene testing, as well as advice from nutritionists and alternative medicine practitioners.

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