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Health Department: Screening program provides breast cancer services

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there is probably not a person out there who does not know this.

We've seen pink ribbons, pink trucks and even a pink paper that was dedicated to informing the public about the importance of early detection. For women who have insurance, a breast cancer screening should be a covered expense and something they do yearly.

Without insurance, this screening can be costly.

Fortunately, there is a program that provides free screenings to uninsured, income eligible women ages 40-64. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (better known as BCCP) provides services for these women. The program began in 1991 through the Federal Center for Disease Control and gave nine states, including Maryland, funding. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene then asked local Health Departments to submit grant applications to develop their own screening programs. The Carroll County Health Department BCCP began in 1992 with Judy Trickett as Coordinator. This year is the 20th anniversary of Carroll County BCCP and it has remained under the direction of Trickett.

In the early years, the program was dedicated to countywide outreach to promote awareness. Additionally, physicians, radiology centers and labs agreed to participate by signing contracts and accepting state fees. Eligible women were enrolled and given pap tests, breast exams and yearly mammograms. Currently every state and each county in Maryland offers similar services. Since 1992, Maryland has covered 222,271 mammograms and 125,601 pap tests through BCCP funding. Our local program has provided services for more than 3,000 individual women.

What happens if cancer is suspected or found?

The original federally funded BCCP did not include money for further evaluation of an abnormal finding or treatment funds for women diagnosed with cancer. Maryland, (unlike some states) passed a law to provide funds for treatment. Since that time, additional funding and programs have been added to provide complete follow-up services. Carroll is also able to help younger women with a breast abnormality through a Susan G. Komen Maryland Affiliate grant.

If you or a woman you know has not had a mammogram, encourage her to make an appointment. If she does not have insurance, please ask her to call the BCCP office at 410-876-4423 for more information about the program.

You may also want to wish the BCCP staff at the Health Department a happy 20th anniversary!

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