Fear and modesty kept Diana Awada of Dearborn, Mich., from getting a mammogram.

Four times she made an appointment, and four times she canceled. Getting your breasts checked for signs of cancer wasn't something many women in Awada's Arab-American community felt comfortable doing.

The day Awada did show up for the test, the machine wasn't working. "Good," she thought, as she rushed away.

But just outside the Dearborn health clinic, Awada, 56, bumped into Hiam Hamade, the woman who had convinced her to schedule the X-ray screening in the first place. Hamade persuaded Awada to going back inside for a cup of coffee. The pair chatted until the mammogram machine was up and running again.

It's a good thing they did.

Awada's mammogram revealed a cancerous lump. After surgery to remove the lump and two years of chemotherapy at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Awada's cancer is in remission.

"Hiam saved my life," Awada says. "And who was the first person I saw when I opened my eyes after the surgery? Hiam. Right beside me."

Hiam Hamade (HEE-AHAM HA-ma-de ), 55, is a public health nurse who travels mosque-to-mosque, door-to-door and friend-to-friend throughout metro Detroit's Arab-American community, preaching the importance of breast cancer screenings and teaching women how to do self-exams.

Hamade, a native of Lebanon, does it because early detection is the surest way to survive the disease. She knows that cultural beliefs cause some Arab-American women to shy away from both breast and cervical cancer screenings. Low-income and uninsured Arab-American women are even less likely to get screened.

"Cultural inhibitions, combined with language barriers and financial concerns, have been major roadblocks to Arab-American women when it comes to seeking health care that can save lives," says Dr. Adnan Hammad, senior director of the Community Health & Research Center at ACCESS in Dearborn, located at the clinic where Hamade works.

Only 42 .9 percent of Arab-American women age 40 to 49 reported having a mammogram in the previous two years compared with roughly 74 percent of all Michigan women, according to a 2008 report from the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University.

Another statewide survey of 1,000 Arab-American women by the Michigan Department of Community Health revealed that 45 percent had never had a Pap smear and that 31 percent age 40 and over had never had a mammogram screening.

Hamade, who has been a nurse since 1975, aims to improve those numbers.

She runs the Breast Cancer Outreach Project that operates out of the health clinic at ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services. It's one of six metro Detroit projects receiving a grant from the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. In Detroit, the annual fund-raising walk/run will be Saturday at Comerica Park.

Hamade takes her message wherever she goes, armed with knowledge, compassion, cultural sensitivity and a warm and ready smile that helps put women at ease.

"She's a sweet, gentle soul who really believes in what she does," says Laura Zubeck, a nurse and director of volunteer administration at the Karmanos Cancer Institute. "She works tirelessly, going into homes, bringing people into the clinic at ACCESS and to Karmanos.

"She not only talks to the women, she talks to the men in families to convince them to bring the women or let them come to the clinic. Everybody who knows her loves her."

Hamade's fight against breast cancer went from professional to personal when Hamade got a mammogram in 2004 that revealed cancer. She did the test that December day simply because a winter storm had left the clinic empty.

Like many of her clients, she initially chose to keep her cancer a secret. She had surgery to remove the cancer during Christmas break and was back to work in early January.