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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UC Davis Health offers free mammogram screenings for uninsured women in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

After many delayed vital cancer screenings during the pandemic, UC Davis Health seeks to serve the community through their free screening program

By SONORA SLATER — science@theaggie.org

Free mammogram screenings are being offered to uninsured women in the Davis community by the UC Davis Health Department of Radiology in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, according to a recent press release

The screening mammograms are available for uninsured women aged 40 and older who are not currently displaying any symptoms. Appointments are available on a first-come, first-served basis on select Saturdays in October, and the mammograms will be done at the UC Davis Health Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center. 

According to Dr. Shadi Shakeri, the chief of breast imaging at UC Davis Health, the program began several years ago as a collaboration between the Breast Radiology Division in the Department of Radiology and the UC Davis School of Medicine student-run clinics. After a short lapse, the program was re-started last year. 

“Everyone in our division, from front desk staff, technologists, trainees and radiologists to our department leadership is passionate about patient care and serving the community,” Shakeri said via email. 

Screening rates are low among women who lack insurance coverage, a dangerous trend considering that consistent and timely breast screening reduces mortality due to breast cancer, according to Shakeri.

“Getting a high-quality screening mammogram on an annual basis is the most effective way to detect breast cancer early,” Shakeri said. “Early detection of breast cancer means that treatment could possibly be less extensive and have a better prognosis. Without regular mammograms, tumors can go undetected allowing […] breast cancer to grow and possibly spread to other parts of the body. Early detection saves lives!”

Stephanie Winn, the senior public information officer at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, emphasized that Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the free screening program specifically, are even more important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Women have put off getting their routine mammograms and [we’re] concerned pandemic-related delays will have dire consequences,” Winn said via email. “Breast cancer caught early is easier to treat, but if left undiagnosed it can prove fatal.”

Winn went on to offer some statistics about how pandemic screening delays may prove dangerous.

“The National Cancer Institute predicts almost 10,000 people will die from breast and colorectal cancer alone over the next decade because a third of adults have failed to get recommended cancer screenings during the pandemic,” Winn said.

Shakeri talked about why she believes this screening opportunity is so important. 

“We want to raise awareness regarding the lifesaving potential [of] mammograms to detect breast cancer early when it is most treatable,” Shakeri said. “We aim to facilitate the process of getting screening mammograms for women, in particular for uninsured and underserved women.” 

She went on to describe how collaborative the project has been.

“We have been working on this project for several months which requires support from multiple resources to make it possible,” Shakeri said. “We’ve partnered with our colleagues in finance and advertising, as well as identifying a clinic environment for patients who may need follow-up examinations.” 

She concluded by reminding people of the significance of the month, emphasizing why they chose to offer the free screenings during October.

“There is no better time to offer this program than during Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” Shakeri said. 

To schedule an appointment, please call (916) 734-6145 and ask to book an appointment for a free Breast Cancer Awareness Month (BCAM) screening mammogram. Spanish-speaking representatives are available. Appointments are required and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Patients needing follow-up care will be referred to their primary care provider or other health care provider.

Free mammograms are offered for eligible, uninsured patients. For insured individuals, UC Davis Health will bill the insurer for the provided screening services, as appropriate.

Written by: Sonora Slater — science@theaggie.org


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