Fighting cancer Anne Arundel County: Better breast cancer screening has saved women's lives.

October 08, 1997

AT LEAST 20 WOMEN are alive today because Anne Arundel County has developed an effective medical screening program for breast and cervical cancer. Their cancers were detected and treated before they became life-threatening.

During the past five years, county officials -- along with hospitals, physicians and other health organizations -- have worked diligently to eliminate the barriers that kept women from obtaining routine preventive exams.

These efforts have made a big difference in improving the health of county women, regardless of their age or economic status.

Anne Arundel did not always have such an exemplary record. In the early 1990s, the county's rate of deaths from breast cancer was higher than the state average.

County health officials then seized on a federal program that provided money for routine screenings for women who lacked insurance or whose coverage did not include mammograms.

The officials teamed up with hospitals, radiology centers and physicians to build a network to provide service to women. The county also received unexpected help from Delmarva Medical Services, a Medicare utilization review company. In reviewing records of Anne Arundel women eligible for Medicare, its analysts discovered that only about one-quarter were having the bi-annual mammograms that Medicare covers.

This summer, the county began contacting older women. Through direct mail and programs such as "Ladies Night Out," dinner meetings where women can learn about breast and cervical cancer screening, use rates have begun to climb for the county's senior citizens.

Women needing a mammogram or a cervical exam can call the county Health Department's "Learn to Live" program (410-222-7979) to arrange for an appointment. The service will find a radiology center or hospital close by and will even provide transportation if necessary.

In the past two years, Anne Arundel's breast cancer mortality figures have been dropping.

County health officials are pleased with the trend. They would like to drive those numbers even lower.

The only way to achieve that result is to have more county women take advantage of this effective program.

Pub Date: 10/08/97

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