By G. KERRY WEBSTER
Daily Herald Editor
With an estimated 211,300 new invasive cases of breast cancer expected to occur amongst women in the United States during 2003, early detection of breast cancer is still a woman’s best defense in surviving the disease.
Tyrone Hospital has joined with nine facilities throughout the central Pennsylvania area, and is now part of the Mammogram Voucher Program, also known as the MVP. The American Cancer Society, through the support of the Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure, developed this new initiative.
The MVP, which began in the ACS’s Southwest Pennsylvania Region, provides free mammograms and follow-up diagnostic services to medically underinsured and uninsured women in central Pennsylvania who qualify for screening mammograms; diagnostic mammograms; breast sonograms; clinical examination of the breast; needle aspirations and biopsies; and surgical consultations.
Tyrone Hospital has contracted to provide screening and diagnostic mammograms and breast sonograms.
The mammogram voucher program is available at eleven locations throughout central Pennsylvania.
“We are delighted to be able to extend the reach of the Mammogram Voucher Program to the women of Central Pennsylvania,” said Claudia Shaw, director of radiology at Tyrone Hospital.
“There are a few eligibility requirements that women must meet-mainly, a woman must be uninsured, underinsured, or simply unable to pay because it would create a financial hardship,” said Kristin Davis, community outreach coordinator for the ACS’s central Pennsylvania region.
Eligibility requirements include:
•Have no insurance and would create a financial hardship to pay, or;
•Are unemployed and without medical assistance that covers
•Are under age 35 and symptomatic or have a close relative (mother, sister, daughter) diagnosed as having premenopausal breast cancer, or;
•Are age 35 and over without insurance coverage for annual screening mammograms and cannot otherwise afford mammograms, particularly if there is a risk factor for breast cancer, and;
•Must reside in central Pennsylvania.
Davis added that women should call the Mammogram Voucher Program toll free number to find out if they qualify at 1-888-MVP. Once the determination is made as to whether the woman qualifies, a voucher will be issued for a participating facility of her choice.
The ACS unequivocally states that mammography is still the single most important tool in the fight against breast cancer. It strongly urges women to continue to get mammograms as a primary part of an overall breast health strategy.
The Mammogram Voucher Program has been underwritten by the Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure, locally organized by the National Councilof Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section, and administered by the American Cancer Society in southwestern Pennsylvania since 1993.
The Komen Pittsburg Race for the Cure is an annual race that takes place on Mother’s Day in Pittsburg’s Schenly Park to raise awareness of breast cancer. This year marked the race’s 11th year.
Since the Komen Pittsburgh Race for the cure began their generous funding of the program in 1993, more than 16,908 women throughout western Pennsylvania have been provided vouchers by the ACS, with 168 positive findings as a result. Since the program was introduced in central Pennsylvania in September of 2001, 495 women throughout central Pennsylvania have received a voucher for a free mammogram, who were uninsured, underinsured, or simply unable to pay for a mammogram. To date, two positive findings have occurred.
“The MVP has been extremely successful in the American Cancer Society’s Central Pennsylvania region and we are fortunate to have the tremendous support of the Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure,” said C. David Kimmel, regional manager of the American Cancer Society’s central region.
Early detection is the single most important element in surviving cancer and mammography is currently considered the gold standard for early detection. The MVP has the potential to save hundreds of lives of women, who before the program had little access to mammography services for many reasons, including cost. Now, no woman will go without these life saving services.
To find out if you qualify, call the Mammogram Voucher Program hotline at 1-888-MVP-0505.
By G. KERRY WEBSTER