Cancer Screening Program for the Uninsured

BINGHAMTON, NY - Pink ribbons. Cancer walks. TV and radio commercials. It seems everywhere you turn, you hear about the importance of breast cancer screening. This is especially true in October because it is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the number one cancer in women. In New York State 14,430 women are expected to be newly diagnosed with breast cancer and an estimated 2,760 women will die from the disease this year. This is reason enough to get your mammogram and encourage the women in your life to get theirs; if not for yourself, do it for those you love. The American Cancer Society recommends that women aged 40 and older have annual mammograms.

What if you don't have insurance or your insurance doesn't cover preventive services? Unfortunately this is a reality many women face. Nationwide, it is estimated that the number of uninsured is 45 million and growing. In Broome County alone, there are over 30,000 people living with no form of health insurance. There are thousands more that have some form of health insurance that does not pay for preventative cancer screening tests. In many cases, if women have to come up with the money to pay for these tests, it takes away from the money that was budgeted for food or rent. Breast cancer screening in these cases is not the priority and they are put on hold. This can be a fatal decision. 

The New York State Cancer Screening Program offers breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening to the uninsured and underinsured. This program has provided 360,000 mammograms and 105,000 pap tests to low income, uninsured women in New York State since 1994. It is estimated that 550,000 women meet the eligibility criteria for this program in New York State. Locally, the Broome County Health Department's Southern Tier Healthy Living Partnership qualifies women for breast and cervical cancer screening tests throughout Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Otsego and Tioga counties. Women age 18-39 can receive clinical breast exams, pap tests and limited diagnostic testing. Women age 40 and older can also receive mammograms. For those who qualify, these tests can be paid by the program and the patients will not be responsible for the bill.

Governor Pataki states, New York State is a national leader in breast cancer screening and treatment. Today, the national survival rate is 97% for women diagnosed with breast cancer in its early stages and we continue to take steps to ensure that women in New York have access to the most advanced health care system in the world, as well as the services and support they need as cancer survivors. More than 2,000 cases of breast cancer have been detected through the program. Approximately 57% of these cases are diagnosed at an early stage, when treatment is less expensive and the survival rate is more favorable.

Throughout the five counties served by the Southern Tier Healthy Living Partnership, there are over 200 health care providers who participate in the program. Carrie Abbott, Supervising Public Health Educator of the Southern Tier Healthy Living Partnership remarks, The providers who serve the patients through this program are heroes. We see how hard they work everyday and the lives they touch. They know the importance of preventive cancer screening and do what they can to offer these services to everyone seeking them. To them insurance status does not determine whether or not an individual receives these life saving tests.

The Southern Tier Healthy Living Partnership also offers colorectal cancer screening tests to men and women who are uninsured or to those who have health insurance that does not cover preventative colorectal cancer screenings. In order to qualify, you must be 50 or older unless you have a personal or first-degree relative who has been diagnosed with colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer. Call for further information.

Claudia Edwards, Public Health Director of the Broome County Health Department invites anyone interested in learning more about the Southern Tier Healthy Living Partnership to call our toll-free number 1.877.276.1019. With the high rates of people living in our communities without health insurance, programs such as the Physicians Free Clinic, Lourdes Dental Program, Rural Health Network's Pharmaceutical Assistance Program, Mother's and Babies Perinatal Network Facilitated Enrollment Plan and services database and the Southern Tier Healthy Living Partnership Cancer Screening Program are working to offer essential services.

10/14/2005 - 1:30pm