The Breast Cancer Alliance of Greenwich will continue to fund a free screening program for uninsured women in Fairfield County, regardless of age, finances or new U.S. Preventative Services Task Force guidelines, through Greenwich Hospital Breast Center.
"The Alliance's mission is: no one should be denied a mammogram or mammogram services because they cannot afford it," said Patty Perrone, Greenwich Hospital Breast Center manager. "One of the wonderful things about this program is that they underwrite follow-up care. I had a patient in tears on the phone when she heard they would cover her follow up tests. She knew something was wrong, and she didn't know how she would pay for it. "
The Alliance's free mammography screening program normally serves about 100 women each year, but last year, 147 women received screenings at the Breast Center, Perrone said. The significant increase was mostly due to the loss of jobs, and the loss of medical insurance.
"It's surprising how many women come in that you would never think," said Jan Larkin, R.N., Nurse Navigator at the Breast Center. "They don't make enough money, or their husbands lost their jobs and they were covered by his insurance -- all kinds. The Center doesn't turn anyone away. They just have to sign a waiver saying, `I am not insured or underinsured,' and they get a free mammogram," said Larkin. "You don't have to be a resident, but each town has a Department of Public Health, which covers clinic patients and there are clinics that send them for a mammogram, so they shouldn't be worried that way."
The Alliance held a special auction at its annual benefit luncheon last October to raise funds for the program. Guests pledged approximately $117,000 to the free screening program, and the Alliance's benefit luncheon raised more than $1 million overall for breast cancer research, community outreach and educational initiatives.
Uninsured women can receive free screenings at Breast Center of Greenwich, located at 77 Lafayette Place on the Greenwich Hospital campus by calling 203-863-3031. For women who are too busy during the day to get a mammogram, the Breast Center is open until 8:30 p.m. every night, Monday to Thursday, and Saturday mornings.
"We believe that early detection saves lives," the Alliance said in a statement when the USPSTF released its new guidelines, "and although mammography may be slightly flawed, it's the best tool we have right now."