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Baptist Foundation fights breast cancer with early screenings

In the fight against breast cancer, early detection by mammogram and self-examination can save a life. The American Cancer Society said these screenings can detect cancer before any symptoms are felt, finding it early before it has a chance to spread.

An under- or uninsured woman’s financial circumstance will often be a barrier to care. Studies show that most uninsured women report not seeing a health care provider for an extended period of time because they cannot afford it. These women typically have poorer health outcomes because medical costs can be a significant burden.

There is one organization, Baptist Healthcare Foundation, that is working to bridge the gap for uninsured women through their mammogram fund. Since the beginning of the fund 13 years ago, it has provided 2,645 screening. Of those, 681 required additional testing, leading to 93 biopsies paid for in part or in full by the foundation. Thirty-two of those women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

“The odds of surviving breast cancer are greatest when the disease is detected, diagnosed and treated early,” KC Gartman, Baptist’s Chief Development Officer said. “The earlier the detection, the greater the chances.”

Baptist Healthcare is unique in many ways, but one way that allows them to make the best decisions for the patients is that they don’t have a corporate headquarters to answer to.

“We are owned by the community. We don’t answer to a corporate headquarters anywhere,” Gartman said. “We believe it is our duty to care for our community whether you have insurance or not. We are a hospital of and for our community.”

The foundation works directly with organizations in the community to raise funds for mammograms. Gartman said it would not be possible without contributions from Pink Ribbon Pensacola, Pensacola Breast Cancer Association and Pink Pirates of Navarre. They also have corporate partnerships like Pensacola Honda – Your Local Honda Dealer. Last year the fund raised $100,000.

There is also hope and financial assistance available for women who receive the diagnosis of breast cancer and are uninsured. The foundation will offer a level of financial assistance based on the patient’s income. It exemplifies the hospital’s motto – “Helping people throughout life’s journey.”

“We do not want any woman to have financial barriers to this lifesaving scan,” Gartman said.

Mammograms are an X-ray of the breast and often they are the best way to find breast cancer early. But being familiar with how your breasts look and feel can help you detect lumps, pain or a change that could be concerning.

“You know your body better than anyone,” Gartman said. Examining yourself regularly can detect a problem. The American Cancer Society lists possible symptoms as:

  • Swelling of all or part of a breast
  • Skin dimpling
  • Breast or nipple pain
  • Nipple retraction
  • Nipple or breast skin that is red, dry, flaking or thickened
  • Nipple discharge
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collar bone.

It is important to have any new breast mass, lump or other changed checked by an experienced health care professional.
The foundation’s mammogram fund stands at the ready to help women in need.
“If a woman is told she needs to get a mammogram, do not be scared to reach out,” Gartman said. “All they have to do is call us at 850-469-7500 and tell the person on the other end of the phone you want to be qualified for the mammogram program.”

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