Kay Mayo didn't have a family history of breast cancer and didn't think she was at risk. But the 45-year-old Pasadena woman saw a notice about a low-cost mammography program offered by Harbor Hospital Center that even had evening hours.
"They made it so easy, there was really no reason not to do it," she said.
She's glad she did. The mammography revealed a malignant tumor that could not have been detected with a physical exam. Just over a year later, after a bilateral mastectomy, Ms. Mayo has been given a clean bill of health.
To help educate the public and encourage women to seek early screening, Harbor Hospital is sponsoring two community events -- one at the Glen Burnie Mall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. tomorrow, a second from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Oct. 20 at the First Baptist Church in Cherry Hill, near the hospital.
Linda Wieczynski, coordinator of the hospital's Low-Cost Mammography Program, said the hospital was contacted by the American Cancer Society and asked to participate in Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities.
The two educational events, which feature free educational materials, blood pressure screenings and staff members answering questions, were organized to inform the public about breast cancer risks and the hospital's program.
"The focus is definitely early detection of breast cancer," Ms. Wieczynski said. "In Maryland, breast cancer is second only to lung cancer for cancer fatalities in women."
This year, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 3,500 new cases of breast cancer detected in Maryland and 900 deaths from the disease. Nationally, there will be 180,000 news cases and 46,000 deaths, she said.
"The risk keeps going up. In the 1960s, the risk was one in 20 women. Now it's one in nine," said Ms. Wieczynski. "You can't prevent cancer, so the next best thing is early detection. Breast cancer is nearly 100 percent curable when found early."
The hospital's screening program, started in 1991, conducted 350 mammographies during its first year. In the first six months of 1992, staff members have already done more than 300 and hope to complete 600 by the end of the year.
The program offers mammographies for $45, about half the regular cost, said Ms. Wieczynski. Women who meet an income eligibility requirement receive the service free. Last month, she said, half the screenings done were free.
"The service is offered to everyone, but my efforts are more toward those women who don't have insurance, who might not get one otherwise," she said.
Ms. Mayo said many women put off having a mammogram because they think they are not at risk or are afraid to get bad news. Both are bad reasons, she said.
"Don't put it off, it's just not worth it," she said. "They removed a tumor that was 5 1/2 centimeters -- the size of a small apple -- from me. But it was so deep, you couldn't feel it.
"If I hadn't had the mammogram, I would never have known about it. It can save your life. That was definitely true for me."