The importance of mammography

2009 Fiscal Year

It is common knowledge that many women put off getting their annual mammogram screening for a variety reasons. Last year, at Ministry Sacred Heart - Saint Mary’s Hospitals (MSHSMH), affordability could no longer be used as an excuse.

From October 15 through November 14, 2008, MSHSMH offered free mammogram screenings to women 40 years and older who resided in the SHSMH service area, which includes Oneida, Lincoln and Forest counties.

To qualify for this free service, women needed to be over 40 years old, live in one of the three counties, and not have had a mammogram in the previous 12 months due to no insurance or lack of other financial resources to acquire this service.

This program helped determine the extent of a very important unmet health care need for women in the hospital’s primary service area.

“Too often, women do not get screened,” said Sue Kirby, Community Link coordinator. “In fact, only about 65 percent of the women in Wisconsin have annual mammogram screenings. We hear many reasons for not getting a mammogram; most often it is for financial reasons.”

Kirby said that of the 74 women who inquired about the free screening, 65 reported having no insurance or very high deductible plans that did not provide for this preventative coverage. Five of the women had never had a mammogram for this specific reason, and 17 had not had a mammogram in over two years. Six women screened were recommended to have further diagnostics due to their screening results.

If diagnosed at an early stage, breast cancer patients have an encouraging survival rate. Considering all races, 5-year relative survival rate is 98% for localized disease, 84% for regional disease, and 27% for distant-stage disease.

“Mammography is so important – it is still the best way to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages – when it is still treatable,” said Monica Hilt, president of MSHSMH.

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