October marks the 31st anniversary of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
While America joins together in the prominently display of "pink" everywhere and on nearly every imaginable item, the Harford County Health Department urges all women to take advantage of health care benefits and to be screened for breast cancer.
Breast cancer, aside from skin cancer, is the most common cancer among American women. The Harford County Health Department wants to remind the public about the importance of screening, including clinical breast exam and a mammogram, which remains the best way to detect the disease.
Newly-released U.S. Census Bureau data reports that as of 2014, 92 percent of Marylanders are insured through private or public insurance coverage sources. Most health insurance plans offered in Maryland provide complete coverage of preventive health screenings, such as breast cancer screening. It is estimated, however, that only 56 percent of Maryland women 40 years old or older have had a breast cancer screening with a clinical breast exam and mammogram within the past year.
Wendy Richard, Breast and Cervical Cancer Program Coordinator states, "It is essential to the health of Maryland women that they take full advantage of the cancer screening services that are available to them through health insurance coverage. It is recommended that women be screened regularly for breast cancer."
For women 40 years and older, the following general guidelines for regular screening apply:
¿ Mammograms (x-rays of the breast) are recommended every one to two years, as directed by your doctor or nurse
¿ Clinical breast exams are recommended every year
For those concerned about the cost of mammograms, the Harford County Health Department's Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program (BCCP) offers no-cost mammograms to qualifying women who are Maryland residents, ages 40 and older that have little or no health insurance and who meet the program's financial income guidelines.
The program also makes available Patient Navigation Services to assist women with scheduling their breast and/or cervical cancer screening appointments, helping women understand test results; and arranging any follow-up that may be recommended by a health care provider Navigation services are available for women who meet program eligibility criteria, and can include women with Medical Assistance or private insurance that fully pays for breast and cervical cancer screening services. Women who have Medicare Part B may also be eligible for Patient Navigation Services if they meet other program eligibility criteria.
For more information about breast cancer or health department services, call the Office of Cancer Prevention Services at 410-612-1780 or visit the Health Department's website at www.harfordcountyhealth.com.