May 21, 2010 > Improving Women's Health: Breast Screenings for Women in Need
Improving Women's Health: Breast Screenings for Women in Need
Community Health Centers and Hospital Partner to Provide Mammograms
For many women, preventive health screenings have remained out of reach if they are uninsured or their insurance does not cover the cost.
To help make sure more women in the community can receive mammograms, which remain the most effective tool in the diagnosis of breast cancer, Washington Hospital has for the past 10 years partnered with community health centers Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center and Tri-City Health Center to identify in-need women and provide them with free mammograms.
"Many times, women who are uninsured may not see screening mammograms as an urgent need, and the Free Mammogram Program helps make sure that all women in the community have access to this screening without fear of cost," says Ruth Traylor, Director of Community Outreach for Washington Hospital. "This is one way Washington Hospital is helping residents of Washington Township Health Care District access preventive care."
The importance of regular screening and its link to early detection cannot be emphasized enough, according to Washington Hospital's Director of Mammography Mimi Lin, M.D.
"Mammograms in conjunction with clinical breast examinations are the only proven screening tests for detecting breast cancer," Dr. Lin states. "Mammograms have increased the detection of smaller breast cancers, which have improved longevity of breast cancer survivors.
"We recommend that patients have a baseline screening mammogram between the ages of 35 and 40 and have annual screenings beginning at age 50. Women between 40 and 50 or have a family history of breast cancer should discuss when and how often to have a screening mammogram with their physician."
Dr. Lin adds that, according to the National Cancer Institute, several large studies conducted around the world show that breast cancer screening with mammograms reduces the number of deaths from breast cancer for women ages 40 to 69, especially those over age 50.
The Free Mammogram Program at Washington Hospital operates through referrals. Women are first seen as patients at Tri-City Health Center or Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, and if they are eligible for the Free Mammogram Program, they are sent to Washington Hospital for the screening test. The results are returned to the clinics, whose staff helps facilitate follow-up care if necessary.
The free mammogram program began as an effort by a group of community members who donated money with the goal providing free mammograms to women who could not otherwise afford them, Traylor says more than 1000 women have been screened since the program's inception in 2001.
"We care about the wellbeing of our community," Traylor says. "Washington Hospital wants to ensure that everyone has the same access to quality health care."
Washington Hospital Achieves National Breast Center Certification
Washington Hospital's Breast Health Program is accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), a program administered by the American College of Surgeons. The Breast Health Program is the only program in Northern California to hold this distinction.
Accreditation by the NAPBC is only given to those centers that have voluntarily committed to provide the highest level of quality breast care and that undergo a rigorous evaluation process and review of their performance.
Certified centers must demonstrate compliance with standards established by the NAPBC for treating women who are diagnosed with the full spectrum of breast disease. The standards include proficiency in the areas of: center leadership, clinical management, research, community outreach, professional education, and quality improvement. A breast center that achieves NAPBC accreditation has demonstrated a firm commitment to offer its patients every significant advantage in their battle against breast disease.
"The Breast Health Program is just part of what is offered at Washington Hospital, which also has the Washington Women's Center and Outpatient Imaging Center that provide the full range of imaging services," says Dr. Lin. "In women requiring additional evaluation from a screening or diagnostic mammogram, we can expedite the needed procedures. If a biopsy is necessary, we can often have the diagnosis within a week of the original screening mammogram."
Receiving care at a NAPBC-accredited center ensures that a patient will have access to:
* Comprehensive care, including a full range of state-of-the-art services;
* A multidisciplinary team approach to coordinate the best treatment options; and
* Information about ongoing clinical trials and new treatment option.
Most importantly, though, it means quality breast care close to home.
Screening for those in need
To find out about qualifying for the program, members of the community may contact either Tri-City Health Center at (510) 770-8040 or Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center at (510) 471-5880.
For information about services and programs at Washington Hospital that are specifically designed for women, including free educational seminars, call (510) 608-1301 or visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.