Free mammograms available for low-income women via Komen grant
by Patrick McCreless
pmccreless@annistonstar.com
Oct 19, 2012 | 5149 views |  0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
X-ray technician Melanie Yancey adjusts a mammogram machine Thursday at Regional Medical Center. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
X-ray technician Melanie Yancey adjusts a mammogram machine Thursday at Regional Medical Center. (Anniston Star photo by Bill Wilson)
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Melanie Yancey pressed a button on the mammogram machine at Regional Medical Center, rotating it to various angles. Every year, the X-ray technician uses the device to check thousands of women for signs of breast cancer.

“The exam is very quick … women are usually out in five or 10 minutes,” Yancey said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mammograms are still the best way to detect breast cancer in women. Because some women in Calhoun County might not have insurance to cover the cost of a screening, however, free mammograms are available.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recently received a $412,532 grant to provide free mammograms for low-income women without insurance in northern Alabama, including Calhoun County. The nonprofit Susan G. Komen for the Cure, North Central Alabama Affiliate, provided the grant. For the last 10 years, the department has used the annually awarded grant to fund free screenings through its Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

“Every year we grant out money to different organizations for breast health education or intervention-type programs,” said Farah Grogan, outreach coordinator for Komen’s north central Alabama affiliate. “I think every year we have increased the funding.”

To date, the Komen funds have provided more than 17,573 mammograms and diagnosed 221 breast cancers.

Nancy Wright, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Health, said the grant will fund mammograms for women between 40 and 49 years old who have no insurance and low incomes. Wright said the money is enough to pay for approximately 2,350 screenings through the next 12 months.

“The screening amount is based on how many women we’ve had in the past,” Wright said.

Without the grant, the department’s program would be unable to fund free mammograms for the 40-to-49 age bracket.

“And they are available all year round,” Wright said of the screenings.

She said area women who think they are eligible for the free screenings can visit the Calhoun County Health Department. If a woman is eligible, she is referred to a physician or hospital in the area for a free screening, including RMC.

“We’re one of the larger providers of mammograms,” Yancey said.

Wright noted that if a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, follow-up testing will also be provided free of charge. If the woman requires treatment, then the Health Department helps her get Medicaid funding, Wright said.

A mammogram uses X-rays to examine the breast tissue for cancer. Because studies show the older a woman gets, the more susceptible she is to contracting breast cancer, the bulk of the Health Department’s early-detection program funds free screenings for low-income women between 50 and 64 years old.

“We recommend women start getting mammograms at age 40,” said Dr. Gary Morgan, a radiologist at RMC since 1990.

Morgan recommends that women between 40 and 50 years old get mammograms every one to two years. Women more than 50 years old should get screened every year, Morgan said.

“As far as screening, it’s still the best tool we have,” Morgan said.

According to CDC figures, 210,203 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, and 40,589 women died from the disease that year. In Alabama, approximately 121.4 of every 100,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and approximately 23.2 per every 100,000 women died from the disease, according to the CDC.

For more information about the Health Department’s early detection program, call 1-877-252-3324. To make an appointment at the Calhoun County Health Department, call 256-237-7523.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.
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