Orange County women will have an opportunity to qualify for low-cost mammography during Cancer Awareness Month in April.
The American Cancer Society program offers qualified women mammograms at a cost of $50, below the usual $150-$300 range of rates in Orange County, according to program chairman Elaine Blake.
A mammography is a form of X-ray used to to detect changes in the breast at an early stage, when cancer is most treatable. The procedure is usually covered by insurance.
Women who participate will be able to have the procedure performed at a clinic or hospital of their choice.
"Mammography is a painless and very low-radiation procedure," said Blake, an administrative analyst at the UC Irvine Cancer Center. "State-of-the-art equipment now reduces radiation levels to such a great degree that there is really no cause to avoid a mammogram anymore."
The low-cost mammograms will be promoted in public-service announcements on radio and in newspapers throughout Orange County during the week of April 6-12.
To qualify for the procedure, women must:
- Have no previously diagnosed breast cancer symptoms.
- Never have had a mammogram.
- Be over 35 years old.
- Reside in Orange County.
About 2,200 women participated in the program last year. Of those, 359 had test results that indicated further investigation was warranted.
Blake said that the medical profession recommends that women whose families have a history of cancer make certain to have a mammogram yearly after age 30. Women with no family cancer history should have a mammogram at 35, and then every other year between ages 40 and 49. All women should have yearly mammograms after age 50.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, Blake said, although lung cancer is the most fatal form of the disease.
"That means two things," she said. "First, that breast cancer is treatable, especially when caught early. Secondly, it indicates that the growing rate of smoking among women is increasing cancer fatalities due to lung disease."