Women age 40 and older are invited to receive free breast cancer screenings and connect to other resources during a health fair at San Diego American Indian Health Center in Banker’s Hill.
The clinic is hosting the free mammogram community event from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 12, at 2630 First Ave. The event is in partnership with Every Woman Counts, a state program that aims to eliminate health disparities by providing free breast and cervical cancer screening to medically underserved and low-income populations throughout California.
To register for a free breast cancer screening during the health fair, call (619) 234-2158.
The event is open to all women age 40 and older regardless of whether they have health insurance to cover the cost of the mammogram.
Kevin LaChapelle, Indian Health Center CEO, said that due to the pandemic straining the medical system and people missing routine health care appointments because of COVID-19, many women have fallen behind on their breast cancer screenings.
A study from Tulane University published in January found that mammograms almost completely halted during the first wave of the pandemic, and screening rates did not make a full recovery until mid-2021.
But that’s not the only reason why women sometimes skip their regular mammograms.
“The pandemic for some reason has caused people that just say, ‘Yeah, maybe next year,’ but the other thing that I have learned is that a lot of patients do not like the discomfort of actually getting a mammogram,” LaChapelle said.
During the event, staff will survey patients in an effort to find more comfortable ways to conduct mammograms. The Centers for Disease Control advise that women not get mammograms in the week before or during their period when breasts can be more tender or swollen.
The American Cancer Society reports that breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for American women, accounting for about 30 percent of cancer diagnoses. Breast cancer has a 99 percent survival rate when it is diagnosed and treated early before it spreads to the lymph nodes or other locations outside the breast.
The CDC says that for many women, the best way to detect breast cancer early is through a mammogram, or a breast X-ray, and having them regularly can decrease the risk of dying from the disease. Most health insurance plans cover mammograms without out-of-pocket costs for women age 40 and older annually or biennially.
LaChapelle said its important that community members encourage the women in their lives to schedule their breast cancer screening.
“People should actually have a conversation and say, ‘I love you, and you mean the world for our family or for our group of friends, and we encourage you to do that because we want you healthy because we want you to be around,’ ” he said.
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