A necessity for women in need

Twice a year, women who might not be able to afford it otherwise are invited to have mammograms and Pap tests done by the professionals at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.

The next testing day is April 26.

The screenings are for women, especially those older than 40 who are uninsured and underinsured, so they will not have to forgo the annual exam that might allow early intervention and treatment for breast and cervical cancer.

You don't even have to be from Fayette County to get the free exam.

This is the sixth year the health department has offered the screenings, something deemed absolutely necessary to reach out to minorities ”who are less likely to be screened and thus die more often from these diseases,“ says Roanya Rice, clinical manager for the health department.

Based on past years experience, many of the patients who show up have not had screenings in the past five years, or have never had them. Those women, when examined, find themselves facing lowered survival rates. The pattern of repeated annual screenings needs to be established and maintained, Rice said.

Breast cancer rates among women in Kentucky ­— for incidence, rates of mortality and screening — are roughly similar to those for women throughout the United States.

The numbers for those with the more rare cancer of the cervix are better for the rest of the nation than in the commonwealth. From 2000-2004, the incidence of cervical cancer in Kentucky was 10.4 per 100,000 female adult population, compared to 8.3 per 100,000 U.S. adult female population.

The numbers in the state were skewed, says Dr. Tom Tucker, director of the Kentucky Cancer Registry, by an inordinately high 11.9 per 100,000 incidence in Appalachian counties. The mortality numbers were, however, almost identical to U.S. numbers ­— 6.6 per 100,000 compared to 6.8 in Kentucky.

The screening is sponsored by the health department, the Mayor's Task Force on Breast Cancer, the Cowan Coalition's Sister to Sister Program and the Markey Cancer Center.