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The importance of preventative health screenings

Newly released U.S. Census Bureau Data reports approximately 90 percent of Marylanders, as of 2014, are insured through private or public insurance sources. Unfortunately, many who have coverage do not take advantage of regular preventative health screenings which are offered at no additional cost.

A timely example of this, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is that most insurance plans provide yearly breast exams and mammograms. However, only slightly more than half of Maryland women age 40 and older had a clinical breast exam and a mammogram within the last year. Our Carroll County statistics for the adults insured are about 95 percent, and our latest reported rates of breast screening for women age 50 and over is about 87 percent. (Our local numbers can be found on the Partnership for a Healthier Carroll County's website www.healthycarroll.org.)

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Considering the statistics above, about 13 percent of Carroll County women are not following breast screening recommendations. This may seem like an insignificant number unless just one of those 13 percent has an undiagnosed cancer. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (BCCP) at the Carroll County Health Department encourages all insured women to be informed of their covered services and participate in preventative screenings.

BCCP also suggests that uninsured women in our area apply for coverage through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange at http://marylandhealthconnection.gov. Open enrollment is November through January. Lower income residents may qualify for Medicaid and can also obtain information about this through the health connection website. Carroll County residents may contact the Health Department at 410-876-4900 for assistance in enrolling for health care coverage. Walk-ins are acceptable, but appointments are preferred.

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It is essential to the health and well-being of Marylanders to take the time to schedule the cancer screening services that are available through their health insurance. For women who remain without coverage, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program offers free gyn's and mammogram exams. More information and eligibility guidelines can be obtained by calling BCCP at 410-876-4423.

There is no better time than Breast Cancer Awareness Month to encourage women to follow the general recommendations from the American Cancer Society for breast cancer screening — those 40 and older should have yearly breast exams and mammograms. We would like to see 100 percent of our female population have the opportunity to participate in these early detection guidelines.

Susan Rinehart is the Community Outreach Coordinator for the Carroll County Health Department.

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