Presence campaign funds free breast cancer screenings

Presence Covenant Medical Center’s Foundation donated $10,000 to the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District in early September to finance free breast and cervical cancer screenings for uninsured women in Champaign County, more than 700 of which are on a waiting list.

“Women from 35-64 years of age who do not have access to care, do not have health insurance or Medicare or any of those services … can enroll through us for screening services,” said Cathy Propst, Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program coordinator at the CUPHD.

Propst said the program provides women with a clinical breast exam, pelvic exam and Pap test. When they turn 40, a mammogram  — an X-ray of breast tissue used to look for masses or abnormalities that indicate breast cancer — is added to the service.

Louise Fellmann, women’s health patient navigator and program coordinator at Presence Covenant Medical Center, said she recommended that any woman over the age of 40 or any woman who has a family history of breast cancer should discuss scheduling yearly mammograms with her doctor.

“If a woman doesn’t have a mammogram every ten years, a lot could change, and they could have a mass that has gotten larger spread more to the other organs, possibly,” she said.

Fellmann said the early detection screenings the program is offering to uninsured women will help women in the community stay healthier and live longer.

“I feel that it will help in a lot of ways, because the woman who couldn’t afford a mammogram will now have a better chance of survival by having a screening done and finding (a mass or calcification) early,” she said.

However, Propst said funding for the program has been difficult because of budget cuts from state and federal funding sources in the last three to four years.

“It has dropped enough that we don’t always have enough money each fiscal year to serve all the women in our communities that need those services,” Propst said.

Since November, Propst’s office has adapted a priority system in which the highest priority women are served according to a woman’s statistical risk in developing cancer.

The first-level priority is for women who are symptomatic with a breast lump or a nipple discharge, indicating that they potentially need diagnostic services.

The second level is for women who are over the age of 50 because the risk for developing breast cancer increases with age. The third level is for women who are 40-49, and the fourth level is for women who are 35-39.

“When Presence learned that there were women in Champaign County who are waiting for service because of our funding difficulty, they offered us to partner with their ‘It’s All in the Jeans’ campaign,” Propst said.

When a company registers for “It’s All in the Jeans,” a Presence campaign, it asks its employees to pay $5 to wear jeans on the first Friday of October, because October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year, the campaign will be held on Oct. 4.

Angela Reinhart, development specialist with Presence Covenant Medical Center’s Foundation, said the purpose of this campaign is to raise funds for community education programs, patient care packs for individuals at the hospital and, for the first time, mammography scholarships.

“This year, we were in the position where we could donate $10,000 in scholarships to CUPHD for individuals on a waiting list to receive a mammogram,” Reinhart said. “We’ve been raising funds in the past, and this year we were able to get a considerable amount.”

About 60 companies and 3,000 participants have registered for the “It’s All in the Jeans” campaign. Reinhart said she is expecting about 160 companies and 5,000 participants because there is usually a rush at the end of the registration period.

She said the campaign raises roughly around $30,000 per year.

Among the sponsors for the campaign are PepsiCo, Acoustic MedSystems Inc., Champaign-Urbana MTD, College of Engineering Career Services and Walgreens.

The screening services are not provided at the CUPHD office, but at Presence Covenant Medical Center.

If any of the women are diagnosed with cancer, the program is able to transfer them to receive medical care, which is not paid for by the CUPHD.

Jacqui can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that women could go to local providers to receive free breast cancer screenings. The article should have stated that only Champaign County women qualify for the screenings that can only be provided through Presence Covenant Medical Center. The Daily Illini regrets the error.