Health centers help fight breast cancer

Health centers help fight breast cancer
The Community HealthCare Association of the Dakotas (CHAD) is urging women to get a mammogram as part of breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Community, Migrant and Homeless Health Centers across the country are on the front lines helping to fight breast cancer among vulnerable populations through prevention, outreach, and by providing low-cost mammography at some sites. Nationally, Community Health Centers provided 257,000 mammograms to women last year and had nearly 33,000 visits for abnormal breast findings. In addition, they provided more than 1.5 million pap smears, of which 134,000 detected an abnormality.

"Studies show that health center female patients are more likely to receive mammograms, clinical breast exams, and pap smears, regardless of whether they have health insurance," said Paula Hallberg, director of policy and community development for CHAD. "That is why the kind of affordable and accessible health care that health centers provide is crucial to fighting breast cancer. When people have a medical home, they will use it and stay healthier."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths for women in the United States. An estimated 211,240 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women in 2005 alone.

African American women are less likely than white women to survive for five years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The five-year survival rate for African American women is 74 percent, compared to 88 percent for white women. The five-year breast cancer survival rate for American Indian women is lower than that of any other ethnic and racial group.

Mammography is the best available screening method available for the detection of breast cancer in its earliest forms and can detect possible tumors years before a woman can feel an actual lump. It is recomended that women 40 years and older receive a screening mammogram every one to two years. The CDC estimates that timely mammography will help reduce breast cancer mortality by 16 percent when compared to women who do not receive screening.

Minority women and those with less education and no health insurance have mammograms less frequently than their counterparts. However, health centers have been able to help counter this trend by providing mammograms and accessible preventive care as well as providing outreach and education across cultural and language barriers. For more information about health centers in North and South Dakota, please visit

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