Vidant Beaufort Hospital, a Campus of ECU Health Medical Center and ECU Health Women’s Care, located in Washington, offered free breast cancer screenings on Friday, Feb. 25 for uninsured women 40 years of age and older with at least one year since their last mammogram.
“Some of these patients have never had mammograms before, and some of them haven’t had one in many years,” said Caddie Cowin, DNP, FNP-C at ECU Health Women’s Care – Washington. “All of these patients are either uninsured, or their insurance does not cover breast cancer screenings.”
Patients received a clinical breast exam, mammogram and education on signs and symptoms of breast cancer to watch for. Mammograms are one of the greatest tools to screen for breast cancer, and early detection is proven to save lives. Even with monthly physical exams at home, mammograms can catch warning signs that go undetected. Yearly mammograms are recommended to begin at age 40, or age 35 if you have close family history of breast cancer. Breast cancer can be treated with better outcomes if caught early.
According to the Department of Minority Health, Black women were just as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer, however, they were almost 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer, as compared to non-Hispanic white women from 2014-18. An explanation for that gap, according to the 2020 census, could be health insurance. The percentage of the Black population with no health insurance coverage for the entire calendar year was higher than for non-Hispanic Whites, at 9.6% compared to 5.2%, according to the 2020 census. Bridging the health care gap to provide early clinical interventions is important in eastern North Carolina, where Vidant and the future Vidant Health serves a large, diverse region.
“The biggest challenge is access to care,” said Cowin. “We know that patients with a lower socioeconomic status struggle more with access to health care and insurance. The disparity is challenging, but this program can help address the need. Just because they cannot pay out of pocket doesn’t mean they can’t get as good care as anyone else.”
“The last clinic we did, a couple of patients ended up needing biopsies, so we were able to catch potentially dangerous things early,” said Cowin. “We could save somebody’s life with what we are doing.”
If a patient does have abnormal findings, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) from the county health department funds follow-up appointments and connects women to treatment if diagnosed. BCCCP is designed to help uninsured or under-insured women pay for mammograms and pap smears, according to Sherri Griffin, RN, BCCCP nurse navigator, Beaufort County Health Department.
“If we do have any ladies unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer, we help them apply for breast and cervical cancer Medicaid, which pays for their treatment,” said Griffin. “The women that we have treated today are in a gap where most cannot qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford health insurance. They typically put off health screenings because they have to pay out of pocket. At this event, we fill in gaps for the women who may need additional imaging after the initial screenings.”
Screenings at this event were funded by the Shepard Cancer Foundation and Vidant Health. For more information on cancer screenings, please visit VidantHealth.com/Cancer. More information about BCCCP can be found at BCHD.net.
Read more in The Washington Daily News.