By Karen Sloan
Pink Ribbon Month is a statewide breast cancer awareness campaign and celebration that is unique to Montana. All citizens, businesses and organizations promote and encourage women to make time for vital, and often, lifesaving breast cancer screenings. May was chosen to promote this awareness message because it is the month that we traditionally honor our mothers. It is important to remember that breast cancer is not just a women's disease; it affects women, men, families and friends.
What is involved in breast cancer screening? According to Dr. Michael Spence, state medical officer, during an annual exam women should request a clinical breast exam. The clinical breast exam is an opportunity for any breast lumps or tissue changes to be checked by a medical service provider. The screening mammogram should be performed annually in women 50 years of age or older. Many women need support from their friends and family to complete these tests, and that is what Pink Ribbon Month is about.
The Montana Breast and Cervical Health program (MBCHP) is a comprehensive breast and cervical cancer screening program. MBCHP provides ongoing quality screening services and education. Administrative sites in multi-county areas implement the statewide program, which is designed to serve the target population. The administrative site for this area Hill, Blaine and Phillips county residents is Hill County Family Planning.
Montana women are eligible for the MBCHP if they are 50 to 64 years of age, uninsured or underinsured, with a family gross income at or below 200 percent of poverty level. The goal is to reduce breast and cervical cancer morbidity among Montana women. For more information about MBCHP, women can call 265-2519.
A recent public/private partnership has resulted in the formation of "Partners for Prevention supporting health and wellness through preventive care." The partners include Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, the Montana Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the Montana Breast and Cervical Health Program, Montana's Parish Nurse Ministry, the Mountain-Pacific Quality Health Foundation and St. Peter's Hospital in Helena.
They have joined forces to increase awareness of breast cancer and to encourage women to receive important screening tests. Each organization has been promoting their own message and now they are combining their efforts and working together.
Low income or underinsured women between 50 and 64 are encouraged to call 265-2519. They will be enrolled in the program and scheduled to see their own health provider for the exams.
Sloan is director of Hill County Family Planning in Havre.