By Tamera Manzanares
You’ve heard it, and you probably know it. Mammograms save lives. But what if you don’t have insurance – or enough insurance – to pay for breast screenings? The Women’s Wellness Connection helps ensure women who are 40 and older receive regular breast cancer screenings to catch any signs of the disease early, when chances of survival are highest. The program, offered through Northwest Colorado Health in Routt and Moffat counties, also provides free cervical cancer screenings (Pap tests) to qualified women.
Since the beginning of this year, more than 100 women have received breast cancer screenings through Women’s Wellness Connection in Steamboat Springs and Craig. Three of those screenings resulted in breast cancer diagnosis.Women should have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 (possibly earlier if they have a high risk of breast cancer), according to the American Cancer Society. Women in this age group also should have a Pap test every three to five years, depending on their risk for cervical cancer.
A woman can receive these screenings through the Women’s Wellness Connection if they live in Colorado, are age 40 to 64, are legal residents of the U.S. or are legally present, have limited or no health insurance, have not had a mammogram or Pap test in the last 12 months and meet income requirements. If a woman qualifies for the program, she will schedule a women’s wellness exam with a provider at Northwest Colorado Health. The visit will include a clinical breast exam – the provider will check for lumps or physical changes in the breast – and a Pap test (if needed). The provider and Community Health Center staff will then help her schedule a mammogram.
Early on, most breast cancers do not cause any symptoms. That’s why it’s important to be screened regularly. Finding breast cancer in its early stages can improve chances that it will be treated successfully, with more options and less extensive surgery. The Women’s Wellness Connection can help pay for diagnostic screenings for women whose mammograms detect breast abnormalities and possible cancer. If cancer is found, the program will connect her with the help she needs to receive treatment. All women should know how their breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away. For breast cancer screening guidelines for all ages, click here.
If a woman does not qualify for the Women’s Wellness Connection, Northwest Colorado Health staff will guide her to other resources that may be available to help her pay for her mammogram or Pap test.
For more information about the Women’s Wellness Connection or to see if you qualify, please call 970-871-7605 in Steamboat Springs or 970-824-8233 in Craig.