Cancer Center provides free mammograms through March 31

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 | 7:16 p.m. CST; updated 10:24 a.m. CST, Thursday, November 19, 2009

COLUMBIA — Ellis Fischel Cancer Center is providing free breast cancer screenings for women who may not be able to afford them through March 31.

This is the third year that the center is offering these services. About 150 people receive free screenings each year.

"We're hoping that the ladies who were going to put it off will get their mammogram because of this program," said Debra Koivunen, associate professor of surgery at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center.

The free screenings are being offered through a $22,080 grant from the mid-Missouri affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, according to an MU Health Care news release.

"This grant was designed to help people who fall between the cracks of other state funding," said Debra Deeken, a registered nurse and manager of Ellis Fischel's breast health cancer screening services.

One in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime and about 40,000 women die each year from breast cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Koivunen said in general the cost of getting a regular mammogram "justifies the outcome." Screenings can help detect and treat cancer in its earlier stages.

Specialists at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center's Cancer Screening Services performed approximately 11,750 mammograms in 2008.

"The truth of the matter is that some people are going to put off doing healthy activities like getting their mammograms because of the economy," Koivunen said.

To be eligible, women must be between the ages of 40 and 64 and live in Adair, Audrain, Boone, Callaway, Camden, Chariton, Cole, Cooper, Howard, Macon, Maries, Miller, Moniteau, Morgan or Randolph counties.

They must also demonstrate limited financial resources, such as an income under 200 percent above the federal poverty level, or have insurance with a high deductible that will not cover their mammogram.

Women younger than 40 but at high risk for breast cancer are eligible for a free mammogram with a physician's order.

Women who have Medicare, Medicaid or health insurance that covers their annual mammograms are not eligible.

Screenings are available at Ellis Fischel Cancer Center at 115 Business Loop 70 W. in Columbia, or on Ellis Fischel's mobile mammography van. The clinic on wheels travels throughout mid-Missouri offering cancer screenings.

Women can schedule an appointment by calling 882-8511. The upcoming schedule for Ellis Fischel's mobile mammography van is posted  on its Web site.

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