The county's two hospitals announced plans this week to start mammography programs for low-income women, as part of the governor's initiative to reduce cancer rates in Maryland.
North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie received an $85,000 state grant yesterday to start its low-cost/no-cost program. Anne Arundel Medical Center (AAMC) in Annapolis received approval for a $147,000 grant on Sept. 8.
Both hospitals announced the new programs as part of the state's "Breast Cancer Awareness Month," which is in conjunction with the national observance. The programs will target women 40 years and older who do not have health insurance or whose insurance does not cover the cost of mammograms.
Many women without health insurance overlook the life-saving screening tests, unaware of the importance of having regular mammograms after the age of 40, said Jackie Timmons, who will coordinate the program for North Arundel Hospital.
"If women realized how easy it is and the high cure rate if [the cancer] is detected early, maybe they'd come in," she said.
Ms. Timmons, quality assessment and program coordinator for the Radiology Department, said when breast cancer is detected in its earliest stages, the cure rate is at least 90 percent.
One in nine women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some time in her life. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates 3,500 women will be diagnosed in Maryland and there will be 900 deaths from the disease. Nationally, there will be 180,000 new cases and 46,000 deaths.
National health organizations recommend that women over 40 receive a mammogram every other year; women over 50 should receive one every year.
AAMC hopes to screen 400 women during its program's first year, and at least 500 the second year. North Arundel is targeting 300 women the first year and hopes to do at least 500 mammograms the second. Baltimore's Harbor Hospital Center, which serves North County residents as well as the city, instituted a similar program in 1991, screening 350 women the first year. The hospital expects to do 600 mammograms through the program this year.
Both Anne Arundel hospitals hope to start accepting clients by the end of November. The hospitals will promote the programs through breast cancer awareness events, public service announcements, educational materials and community outreach efforts.
Cathy Brady-Copertino, an oncology manager at AAMC, said both the county and state have done health-care surveys showing women from certain segments of the population do not come in for mammograms. The most frequently given reasons for avoiding the screenings were: the cost, which many women would have to pay out-of-pocket; the women's private physicians didn't order the tests; the women experienced no symptoms; or the women feared the results. The hospitals hope to work around these problems, she said. "We'll do whatever we have to do. If transportation is a problem, then we'll provide transportation," Ms. Brady-Copertino said.
Mammograms obtained through the program will cost $45, about half the regular cost. Women who are financially eligible will receive the tests for free. Administrators at Anne Arundel Medical Center expect to do 75 percent of the screenings in the program for free this year.
Women interested in the screening should call the Radiology Department of North Arundel Hospital at (410) 787-4370 or the Health Education Department at Anne Arundel Medical Center at (410) 224-5777.