LOS ANGELES, CA – January 20, 2010 – Along with the dozen of long stemmed roses and the expensive box of chocolates many special ladies will receive this Valentine’s Day, Oncologists at White Memorial Medical Center hope their loved ones will also encourage them to get a mammogram. Breast cancer is one of the top three cancers in women and a mammogram is the gold standard when screening for the disease.
55-year-old Loretta Hernandez, a White Memorial patient, credits the free mammogram she received at the hospital through the Every Woman Counts program for saving her life.It’s a free cancer screening program for low-income women who earn less than $21,660 a year.”I think it’s a lifesaver for me. I’ve been unemployed for the last three years and I lost my health insurance. When I first saw the lump in my breast I delayed seeking treatment because I didn’t have any insurance, but then I found the program.”
Unlike Hernandez, who was diagnosed in the early stages of breast cancer in May, many other low-income women at risk for developing the disease may not be able to get the help they need. In an effort to reduce the budget deficit, the state of California cut $10 million from Every Woman Counts. As a result, The California Department of Public Health raised the minimum age for free mammograms from 40 to 50 in early December. The program stopped enrolling new patients on January 1, 2010. When it reopens in July, only low income women
50-years-old and older will be offered free mammograms.
The minimum age increase concerns Dr. Ana Grace, a Radiation Oncologist at The Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center at White Memorial Medical Center. “We’re going to miss a significant number of women who are going to develop breast cancer which will be diagnosed at a much later stage because there’s a significantly high incidence of people in their forties that do develop breast cancer,” says Dr. Grace.
According to the American Cancer Society, one in 68 women in their forties is at risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increases to one in 37 for women in their fifties.
Dr. Harvey Zhang, also an Oncologist at White Memorial, says the later the disease is detected in a patient, the less chance they have of making a full recovery. “The more advanced the breast cancer, the less chance you will survive; the earlier the detection, the better your chance of survival.”
Hernandez thanks Every Woman Counts for allowing her to proclaim that she is a breast cancer survivor. Hernandez says she hopes the program will at some point again offer free mammograms to women in their forties. “I think that this resource for a community like ours which is very underserved, very low-income, and with limited English skills. I think this is a Godsend. Without this program I think a lot of lives would be lost,” she says.
White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles is offering free mammograms to low-income women between the ages of 40 to 50 as a Valentine’s Day Gift. Women who want to take advantage have to call the Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center to schedule an appointment at 323-260-5838. The last day to schedule an appointment is Friday, February 12, 2010.
In 2009, the Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center at White Memorial Medical Center provided more than 1,300 free cancer screenings to the community and more than 1,500 free mammograms to uninsured women. More than 900 patients received chemotherapy in its Infusion Center and more than 600 patients were treated in Radiation Oncology for cancer care.
White Memorial Medical Center is a 353-bed, not-for-profit, faith-based, teaching hospital that provides a full range of inpatient, outpatient and emergency services to communities in and near downtown Los Angeles. Services include The Heart and Vascular Care Center, the Centers for Orthopedic Care, Cecilia Gonzalez De La Hoya Cancer Center, Oscar De La Hoya Labor and Delivery Center, children’s services, emergency services, rehabilitation and behavioral medicine. For more information, visit www.whitememorial.com.