Health and Family Services Cabinet
Never, rarely screened women the focus of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Women who have never had a mammogram and those who rarely go for breast cancer screening are the target of Kentucky’s efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness of the advantages of early breast cancer detection and treatment.
First Lady Glenna Fletcher, Secretary James W. Holsinger, M.D. and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services are encouraging women across Kentucky to help reduce their risk by simply calling their doctor and scheduling an exam.
“Only a few years ago, a diagnosis of breast cancer left a woman with little hope of recovery,” said Mrs. Fletcher. “But today, with the help of early detection tests and emphasis on awareness, we are saving more lives than we were five years ago. Let’s all remember and remind our loved ones of this important fact.”
In Kentucky, 3,320 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and 651 women died from breast cancer. The American Cancer Society predicts approximately 3,290 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in Kentucky this year.
Early detection and prompt treatment can significantly reduce suffering and death from breast cancer. By law, all health plans must cover mammograms. Medical guidelines strongly recommend that women older than 40 have annual mammograms and women younger than 40 with a family history of breast cancer also get regular screenings.
The Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program (KWCSP) in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services will focus its October awareness-raising campaign on women who have never had a mammogram or Pap test and those who haven’t been screened in five years or longer.
“Never and rarely screened women aren’t at any greater risk for breast cancer than women who get regular screenings; but, they do run a far greater risk that the cancer will progress to a stage where it’s difficult to treat and their odds of recovery are low before they seek medical attention,” said Ruth Ann Shepherd, M.D., director of the Division of Adult and Child Health Improvement in the state’s Department of Public Health.
The Kentucky Women’s Cancer Screening Program provides breast cancer screening mammograms and Pap tests to eligible women through local health departments in every county. To qualify for the program, women must be uninsured with incomes less than 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines. Annual screening mammograms are available to women ages 40-64 and women younger than 40 who have a family history of breast cancer.
Last year KWCSP provided screening mammograms to 13,377 women in collaboration with local health departments.
National Mammography Day is October 21. The KWCSP is working with local health departments and women’s health advocates to encourage all women ages 40-64 or younger women with risk factors for breast cancer to make an appointment to get a mammogram and a Pap test – and to keep that appointment. Some screening facilities offer low-cost mammograms during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“Sometimes all it takes is a little gentle persuasion from a loved one for a woman to find the time or overcome her fear or reluctance and go for a mammogram,” said Brenda Combs, KWCSP recruitment coordinator. “That’s why we try to get our message out about early detection and regular screenings to spouses and significant others, children, parents, co-workers, even neighbors and community leaders who can often influence the women in their lives and in their communities better than doctors or advertisements.”
For more information about breast cancer or screening services call your local health department or 1-800-4CANCER.