VNA offering free cancer screenings

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The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is offering free mammograms and pap smear tests to women who qualify.

Each year, the VNA is given state funding for free breast and cervical cancer screenings as part of the Colorado Women's Cancer Control Initiative. The program, offered through the Colorado Department of Health, is designed to educate women about breast and cervical cancers and promote screening and early detection.

This year, VNA was given enough funding to serve about 64 women, but so far less than half that number have participated in the program, said VNA's Family Nurse Practitioner Laurie Ann Perry.

Pap smear tests have helped significantly decrease cervical cancer rates, Perry said. The test is a great tool to detect precancerous conditions and treat them before cancer develops.

Perry said mammograms are somewhat controversial and are not a perfect test for detecting breast cancer, but they do help in diagnosis and early treatment.

"We recommended it because it is better than not getting a screening at all," Perry said.

To qualify for the free screenings, women must be 40 years old or older, have not had a mammogram or pap smear in the previous year and live in Colorado or receive breast or cervical health care in Colorado.

Women also must have a household income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, which translates to $22,450 for a single person and $46,000 for a household of four.

To qualify, women also must not have health insurance that would cover the services, which includes women with Medicare Part B coverage.

Woman 50 years or older can receive a free mammogram and pap smear test. Woman between 40 and 49 receive a free pap smear test. A free mammogram is only available to women between 40 and 49 if they have previous history of breast cancer or a prevalent family history.

The program targets women older than 40, Perry said, because that is when the risk factor for breast and cervical cancer increases.

"Research out there shows the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer under 40 is somewhat minimal compared to women over 40," Perry said.

Perry will perform the examinations. Clinics are held Wednesdays in Steamboat and Tuesdays and Thursdays in Craig.

For more information, call the VNA at 879-1632.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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