More women eligible for free cancer clinics

Thursday, October 16, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:05 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 6, 2008

More than 50,000 Missouri women could be eligible for free cancer screenings again this year thanks to a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials are hoping to increase the number of people taking advantage of the offer, since, last year, only 6,000 underwent the screening.

Missouri’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Project has teamed up with public health agencies, private doctors, hospitals and clinics in 70 Missouri counties and the city of St. Louis to provide the screenings, yet many women remain unaware of the program.

Mary Martin, public health manager at the Columbia/Boone County Health Department, thinks many women believe the screenings are only for people in severe poverty.

“I think that a lot of women think the program is limited to just the poor. They think that public facilities like the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center are offering these screenings to people that have nothing,” Martin said. “That’s just not true. The program helps women with no insurance or low incomes, but not necessarily poor. I think that a lot of women could qualify that don’t think they could.”

Marianne Ronan is chief of the Bureau of Cancer Control, which administers funding for the screening project. She’s trying to get word of the screenings to as many women as possible.

“We continue to search for ways to reach the women who are eligible for BCCCP services,” Ronan said. “All of us who work for this program, in whatever capacity it may be, know we are making a difference in the lives of women and their families in Missouri. I urge women who read this to find out if they qualify for BCCCP services.”

A major change for BCCCP occurred in August 2001 when the Medicaid Breast and Cervical Treatment Act was implemented in Missouri. Signed by Gov. Bob Holden in July 2001, the act authorizes the state to match 28.5 percent of the federal funds in order to participate in a national program to pay for treatment of breast or cervical cancer diagnosed from a BCCCP-paid screening or diagnostic service.

Ronan believes the legislation has helped BCCCP make progress on its goal of educating women about cancer.

“This has been another important barrier removed for women of low income who receive a cancer diagnosis,” Ronan said.

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