Women to receive free cancer tests $5 million grant targets the poor

February 10, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

Free tests to detect breast and cervical cancer are being offered through a new program to women age 50 and older in Howard County.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker and Howard County Health Officer Joyce M. Boyd announced details of the program yesterday, which is being funded by the federal government and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Under the program, women over 50 who are uninsured, underinsured or have high deductibles on their medical insurance may receive a free mammography screening, clinical breast exam, Pap smear, pelvic exam and a colposcopy. Lab fees are also covered.

"We're trying to reach the gray area of women who are working and don't have money," said Marsha Bienia, chief of the Cancer Control Division of the state health department. Officials estimate about 250 women in Howard County will participate each year.

The program is funded through a $5 million four-year grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department's Cancer Control Division.

All 24 county health departments in the state received grants based on the number of women over 40 in their communities. The Howard County Health Department received $100,879 for its first year.

"This money is unusual because it pays for eligible women to get free diagnostic mammograms and Pap smears," Ms. Bienia said.

County Council Chairwoman Shane Pendergrass said the program will help poor women receive regular testing for breast and cervical cancer.

"This will at least remove one barrier," said Ms. Pendergrass, who was at the news conference.

The grant also pays for:

L * Transportation if the patient needs to get to a screening.

* Two community outreach workers and a nurse coordinator to publicize the program.

* Patient education in the community.

* Screening of applicants for program participation.

* Managing the follow-up if test results are abnormal.

Columbia resident Clara Powell told the audience she discovered a lump in her breast shortly after visiting her doctor.

"I came upon something suspicious to me," Ms. Powell said. "I said, 'This can't be anything. I was just at the doctor's two weeks ago; he would have discovered it.' "

Ms. Powell was quickly diagnosed with breast cancer in 1988 but said she survived thanks to regular breast self-exams and immediate treatment.

"It may be the end of your life if you wait too long," she said.

According to the American Cancer Society, one in nine women will develop breast cancer.

The death rate for cervical cancer is highest in women over 50, Ms. Bienia said.

"Women think they don't need to, but they still need to go the doctor to get Pap smears," Ms. Bienia said. "They're dying, and they don't need to."

Since early detection of cancer dramatically increases a woman's chance of survival, experts suggest that women conduct monthly breast self-exams and have regular mammograms every other year between the ages of 40 and 50, and yearly thereafter.

CANCER TESTS

What: Breast and Cervical Cancer Screen Program.

When: Begins immediately.

Info: Call nurse coordinator Rosemary Noble at 313-7500.

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