Breast cancer is often on people’s radar in the month of October, from fundraising walks to sports teams donning pink gear to raise awareness. However, delays in screenings due to the pandemic over the past year and a half may have left some women more vulnerable to the disease.
“We know that many women did not get their mammograms last year due to a number of reasons related to the pandemic,” says Dawn Henslee, Program Coordinator for Public Health’s Well Woman Program. “If you feel hesitation about getting screened, just know that health care facilities have worked hard to create safe spaces for these appointments, and options are available regardless of income or insurance status.”
Public Health Madison & Dane County administers the Wisconsin Well Woman Program (WWWP) that provides free breast cancer screenings for women with limited income and little or no insurance. It is a statewide program that offers free breast exams, mammograms, and other diagnostic tests for eligible women ages 45-65, and women ages 35-44 who have breast symptoms or concerns. Women who are eligible for WWWP and are found to have breast cancer may be eligible for Wisconsin Well Woman Medicaid, which covers treatment costs for breast cancer.
One in eight women in the United States will develop breast cancer at some point in their lives, and regular clinical breast exams and mammograms are crucial in detecting the disease early.
“This is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we encourage all women, particularly women of color, to get screened for breast cancer,” says Dawn Henslee, Program Coordinator for Public Health’s Well Woman Program. “While breast cancer can affect anyone, and rates for white women and Black women are similar, a significant disparity exists in death rates for Black women. Delays in screenings due to the pandemic may increase this disparity,” continues Henslee.
“Black women are more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage of the disease when treatment options are limited and the prognosis is poor, and are about 40% more likely to die from breast cancer. That’s why it’s so important for women of color to be screened regularly,” says Henslee.
People can learn more about the Well Woman Program online at https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/wwwp. Once enrolled in the program, women can get exams at more than 35 clinics in Dane and Rock Counties. Women can call (608) 242-6385 to enroll. Women who live outside Dane and Rock Counties should call 1-800-722-2295 or go online to enroll.
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