Kishwaukee Hospital hosts free health exams for breast cancer awareness

By Kelly Bauer

Kishwaukee Hospital will host a day of free mammograms, pap smears and breast examinations Saturday.

The tests help to catch cervical and breast cancer before it spreads or develops, said Sharon Emanuelson, director of marketing at Kishwaukee Hospital. Similar programs are run through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP), which helped sponsor the free Kishwaukee tests. In order to sign up for the free examinations, a woman has to be 40 to 64 years old and medically uninsured.

“We noticed a higher incident where breast lumps are diagnosed and [patients] hadn’t been able to get mammos,” Emanuelson said. “We are reaching out to uninsured members of the community.”

Although all 36 appointments for the day are filled, Emanuelson said non-participants can still call and make appointments for mammograms and pap smears that may cost money. Emanuelson is unsure if Kishwaukee Hospital will run another event in the future but said they might because they have a waiting list of women who were interested in the Sept. 24 event but weren’t able to get an appointment.

“The mammogram is still the best way to catch [breast] cancer,” said Melanie Arnolds, press representative for the IBCCP. “And for cervical cancer, as long as it is caught early, the survival rate is tremendous.”

Besides receiving the free examinations, those who are attending the Sept. 24 event will receive seated chair massages, mini-manicures, refreshments, a gift and information from local agencies. Arnolds said that at other IBCCP free screenings, women might attend a health fair where they receive free bone density screenings and blood pressure tests.

“It’s something to get women in to hear this very important information,” Arnolds said.

Arnolds said that in the past, doctors recommended a woman do daily breast self-examinations and receive a mammogram and pap smear once a year. However, Arnolds said the science in those areas is changing, and a woman might only need a test once every two years unless they see an abnormality.

“It’s your health and you’re the only person who can help yourself,” said freshman pre-veterinary major Karlee Sipe. “I think they should offer everyone [mammograms and pap smears] for free.”

Signs of breast cancer should be treated seriously and a woman should consult her physician to see if she needs an immediate pap smear or mammogram. Symptoms of breast cancer include discharge and lumps.

Risk factors that heighten a person’s risk of developing cancer are obesity, smoking and having chronic diseases, Arnolds said. There are also uncontrollable factors, like hereditary and age.

If a woman is concerned about abnormalities in her health or wishes to schedule a mammogram or pap smear, she should meet with her physician. Though examinations aren’t free after or before the Sept. 24 event at Kishwaukee Hospital, Emanuelson said that the nurses and doctors there would help accommodate those who are seeking the tests. The cost of mammograms, breast examinations and pap smears varies depending on the price at a hospital an individual’s insurance coverage. The IBCCP can be contacted to help women find low- or no-cost tests.