Women should start getting annual mammograms at age 40, said Dalton's Dr. Eric Manahan.
"That is super important," he said. "High-risk women, anyone who has a relative with breast cancer, we'd like to start their screening 10 years prior to the age of diagnosis of the relative, so if the relative was diagnosed at, say, 43, we'd like the screening to start at 33."
Manahan says that the earlier any cancer, but especially breast cancer, is caught, the better the prognosis.
But Manahan says lack of insurance may deter women from getting mammograms.
According to County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, 22 percent of Whitfield County residents and 20 percent to Murray County residents lack health insurance. County Health rankings is a collaboration between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Fortunately, the Dalton-based Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership has received a $25,000 grant from the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE) to fund mammograms for women in Whitfield and Murray counties who don't have health insurance.
"The state has a special license plate to support breast cancer awareness," said Greg Dent, executive director of the partnership. "If you buy that license plate, $22 of the $25 goes to breast cancer treatment. CORE gives that out as grants."
Dent says the grant the partnership received will go exclusively to screenings for uninsured women.
"We will do screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms," he said. "If there's an ultrasound needed, we will do that. And if a biopsy is needed, we will do that."
If the tests detect cancer, the women will be eligible for the Georgia Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.
"Georgia has a breast cancer Medicaid program that will pay the hospital and doctors for any surgery or other treatment," Dent said. "Everything up to the diagnosis we can pay for. We can pay for approximately 200 mammograms. But this is part of a larger women's health program we have. We also get funding from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Between the two sources of funding, we will be able to do about 350 mammograms."
Dent says Hamilton Health Care System has teamed up with the partnership in the program by providing them with a discounted rate on mammograms to make their funds go further.
"Hamilton is happy to be working with the Healthcare Partnership on this mammogram initiative," said Sandy McKenzie, Hamilton's chief operating officer. "It's a way that we can support this community by helping the Partnership provide as many mammograms as possible to those who might not get tested because of the lack of insurance."
Women interested in seeing if they qualify for the program should call Teresa Mendez at the partnership at(706) 272-6664.
(c)2019 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.)
Visit The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.) at daltondailycitizen.com