Cancer screening program targets women over 40 Emphasis is on education, tests


To reach women who may be reluctant to have cancer screenings, the county's health department has organized a drop-in program Thursday for all women over age 40.

The event, part of the county's "Learn to Live" cancer prevention program, will be held at the Pascal Senior Center on Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie starting at 12:30 p.m.

Evelyn Stein, spokeswoman for the health department, said this is the county's first organized outreach program for cancer screenings since it started the prevention program Jan. 19.

The health department, which is sponsoring the event with the senior center and North Arundel Hospital, hopes to register at least 30 women Thursday. The department will offer the same program for South County residents on June 1 at the Arnold Senior Center.

The program will focus on educating women about the importance of regular mammograms and Pap tests, as well as registering them for the actual tests, to be done later. Pap tests will be performed at the North Arundel Hospital Professional Center off Crain Highway and mammograms at North Arundel Hospital on Hospital Drive.

Even though the program requires two steps -- registration Thursday and tests afterward -- Ms. Stein said, the process is really "very streamlined and convenient." Particularly for women seeking screenings at a reduced cost or for free, Thursday's event will help women figure out their eligibility and speed the paperwork involved.

For free or reduced-cost tests, women must be eligible based on family income or insurance provisions. Both programs -- on Thursday and June 1 -- are open to all women over 40, whether they have medical insurance or not.

The health department is participating through a federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. North Arundel Hospital and Anne Arundel Medical Center, which will perform screenings for the participants at the Arnold center, are offering mammography programs through state grants received last fall from the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission.

Anne Arundel Medical Center hopes to screen 400 women during the first year, and North Arundel is targeting 300 women. Mammograms obtained through the program cost $45, about half the regular cost, and women who meet financial guidelines will receive free tests.

Ms. Stein said it is important for the health department to participate in community outreach programs because of the high cancer rates in the county and state. Maryland ranks seventh in the nation in breast cancer deaths. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates, 3,500 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Maryland and there will be 900 deaths from the disease. Nationally, the forecast is for 180,000 new cases and 46,000 deaths.

Under a separate $26,000 contract, the health department has hired the Anne Arundel County Community Action Agency, based in Annapolis, to do outreach to women who are most unlikely to get cancer screenings, such as the elderly, low-income women and certain segments of minority populations. Since mid-January, the agency has registered 160 women for screenings through its intensive efforts, Ms. Stein said.

For information about Thursday's screening, call the Pascal Center at 222-6680. The county's health department also has established a cancer prevention and screening information line at 222-7979.

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