Tackling excuses for not getting a breast cancer exam | TheUnion.com

Tackling excuses for not getting a breast cancer exam

Cost, time, fear, language and education often get in the way of the recommended and life-saving screening exams for early breast cancer detection.

That’s why Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is working to eliminate these barriers. October is National Breast Health Awareness month and there is an increasingly large amount of important information that will help women make better decisions.

Anxiety and fear are barriers for women when it comes to their breast health. When should I have a mammogram? What if something is found on that exam? Then what? I don’t have time to leave work … I don’t have a family history.

Every women should educate herself and get the facts. Most things found on a mammogram and “called back” turn out to be normal breast changes. It is by looking at subtle breast changes closely that the radiologist is able to detect indications of early cancer, sometimes as small as three millimeters.

An estimated 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are caused by heredity. It is not fully known why breast cancer occurs, and, in fact, 75 percent of all women with breast cancer have no known risk factors.

Experts recommend that women 40 and older get a mammogram annually. Women with high risk factors should talk to their health care provider about a greater frequency of mammograms.

Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital tries to take the stress out of the mammogram procedure through an event called Moonlight Mammograms. This after-hours breast health screening program offers help by providing a relaxed atmosphere, music, wine, hors d’oeuvres and massages.

Private parties are offered for any group that would like to plan its own event. Mammogram parties of 15-20 participants include the exam, beverages, hors d’oeuvres and other amenities.

Since the hospital offers a full-service diagnostic center, other screening exams may be added such as bone density.

Call (530) 274-6246 for more information.

The hospital also offers weekend appointments and will work with uninsured women to qualify them for a screening mammogram through its Barbara Schmitt Millar fund.

Another way SNMH is removing barriers to breast health is through the “Nurse Navigator Program.”

The hospital’s Breast Imaging Services identified an opportunity to improve service and support to its breast cancer patients and to all of the women who come to SNMH for their mammograms.

Its Breast Imaging Center provides a Nurse Navigator (RN) Program during the course of your follow-up treatments. Every woman who is recommended to biopsy is connected with a Nurse Navigator. The nurse will answer any questions, help coordinate care and offer emotional support.

The Nurse Navigator is responsible for improving communication, coordination and efficiency between patients, referring physicians and SNMH. The navigator stays with patients through the breast care diagnostic continuum and, if necessary, into cancer treatment.

Removing language and cultural barriers in our community

To provide cultural and linguistically appropriate services to the Latino population, the Nurse Navigators hope to expand the hospital’s collaboration with the Promotora program at Sierra Nevada Children’s Services.

The Promotora has been working successfully with SNMH’s Maternity Health Department for several years.

The Promotora is a community health worker in the Latino community who will be responsible for working with women to raise awareness of breast health issues. This position provides peer-to-peer health education.

With grant funding from the Susan G. Koman Foundation, the Promotora will be available to patients and the Nurse Navigators to help counsel patients when an abnormality is detected.

The Promotora will be called in to one-on-one meetings when necessary to help explain the medical condition, the healthcare system and next steps.

Promotoras reinforce instructions given during an appointment. When the Promotora is unavailable for translation needs, there are SNMH employees that can be called in to assist.

The Promotora will work with the Latino community linking that population to services available and financial assistance opportunities.

The Nurse Navigators recognize that many of the families that the Promotora is already working with through Sierra Nevada Children’s Services have aunts, mothers and grandmothers that can be educated on breast health.

Since the Promotora already has a working relationship with these families she has gained their trust and is the best source for distributing information and providing one-on-one peer counseling that is culturally appropriate. The program bridges the linguistic and cultural barriers experienced by the Spanish-speaking population in accessing health services through education, translation, facilitation, resource referral and ultimately through individual empowerment.

In recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness month, SNMH Cancer Center is hosting a symposium this month titled, “A Day for Women,” encouraging women to take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. A Day for Women is funded by the Komen Grant.

Starting this month, SNMH is offering special pricing on mammography to reduce the cost barrier of a screening mammogram. The service is now available for $299, pricing valid through 2010. Call (530) 274-6262 to schedule an appointment.

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