Free services offer hope for beating breast cancer
Programs through the Ohio University College of
provide free breast cancer screenings and early treatment for local
uninsured and underinsured
Oct. 6, 2008
found a lump in her breast, she thought little of it. She had found
benign cysts in the past – and paid out of pocket to have them
removed and examined. If this were a movie, a foreshadowing refrain
may have swelled in the background as she did her self-examination,
fading to a tenuous tune as she dismissed it. But there is no
soundtrack to warn us of what is to come, no warning sign that says,
“This time is different.”
Anne, a local
woman whose real name we're not using to protect her privacy, was a
diabetic who had trouble staying insured. As she needed it more,
health insurance became harder to afford and, ultimately, impossible
waiting to get a mammogram until she turned 65, which is when
Medicare would have kicked in,” said Kathy Trace, M.H.A.,
director of OU-COM's Community Health Programs and friend of Anne’s.
“She died two days before her 65th birthday.”
the American Medical Association, 46 million Americans are currently
uninsured, which can lead to a cycle of self-diagnosis, self-neglect
and self-denial that can be fatal.
A few weeks
ago, before Anne succumbed to breast cancer, she implored Trace to
tell her story. According to Trace, Anne’s tragedy is a common one –
but in Southeastern Ohio at least, she said, “it doesn’t have to
registered nurse, and her colleagues at CHP, offer free and
reduced-cost mammograms, ultrasounds, biopsies and other diagnostic
tests for uninsured and underinsured women who are at high risk for
are provided through CHP's Healthy Adult Breast Screening Program
and funded by both the Columbus affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the
Cure and the Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project (BCCP).
explained that all women over the age of 50 qualify for being “high
risk,” as do women with previous breast abnormalities and/or a
family history of breast cancer.
uninsured patient is diagnosed with cancer, the BCCP refers them to
a primary care physician in the state,” Trace said. “And if the
women are members of the BCCP before they are diagnosed, (the
BCCP) also covers the full cost of treatment.”
1994 and March 2006, the program screened 49,558 women for breast
“Many of these
women return each year, using the mobile unit as their primary ob/gyn,”
said Cindy Greenlee, M.S.N., a nurse practitioner with
Student Health Services and CHP, who works with the mobile screening
But, as Anne’s
story attests, more needs done to raise awareness of this program.
Trace, who had
known Anne for years, met with her when Anne complained of back and
bone pain. Unaware of Anne’s breast lump, Trace referred her to a
local physician. Unfortunately, the physician who ultimately noticed
and diagnosed her cancer was not affiliated with the BCCP. With the
diagnosis of advanced breast cancer from an outside physician, it
was too late to join the BCCP and qualify for free treatment.
have been a perfect candidate for this service, had we known
earlier,” Trace said.
died, Anne expressed her desire to spread the word to uninsured
community members about the importance of early detection – and
about OU-COM’s free services.
described Anne as an open and generous person, fondly remembered and
sorely missed by her family and wide circle of friends. “She was
always one to help others. This is one way for that to continue –
her way of being a friend to those she never met.”
Community Health Programs cover a 15-county area through both its
mobile health van and its permanent Free Clinic on the second floor
of Parks Hall in Athens.
arrived in 2000, OU-COM staff nurses told her that they considered
the Healthy Adult Breast Screening Program to be among the most
critical in terms of community impact, but the program had seen many
stops and starts over the years, due to inconsistent funding.
aggressively sought grants to revive the program. In recent years,
Komen has been one of the program’s greatest supporters, helping to
fund services, education and more. OU-COM breast cancer screenings
also are among programs affiliated with the Appalachian Health Care
Access Project, which received a substantial one-time grant from the
Ohio Department of Health and Human Services this year.
biggest risk factors for developing breast cancer – growing older
and being a woman – are unavoidable, Trace said. But regular
self-examinations, discussions with your doctor, and yearly
mammograms – all in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle – can
reduce your risk and give you the greatest advantage in the fight
against cancer: finding it early.
detection has meant everything to Florence, a local woman currently
undergoing chemotherapy. When Florence found a breast lump earlier
this year, she went to a local doctor who referred her to CHP for
screening. She joined the BCCP and was promptly diagnosed. She
qualified for free treatment.
Smith, nurse coordinator for CHP – and herself a breast cancer
survivor – regularly follows up on her progress. She’s feeling weak,
but as Janice assured her over the phone, “This is the worst part of
Greenlee, fear deters some women from investigating breast lumps.
But she believes that’s changing thanks to a national emphasis on
early detection through organizations like Susan G. Komen for the
Cure, and the increased availability of resources, such as CHP
don’t even do breast exams because they’re afraid they’ll find a
lump,” Greenlee said. “They think, ‘What will I do if you find a
lump?’ We give them hope.”
To schedule a
breast exam through the Healthy Adult Breast Screening Program, call