Cancer prevention and early detection are at the top of Lisa Franclemont’s work agenda each day, especially as COVID-19 has kept many people away from the doctor’s office.
“A lot of people avoided their screenings, and there were more late-stage diagnoses,” Franclemont said Thursday. “People still need to have their screenings.”
As Cancer Services Program coordinator for Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, and Niagara counties (GOWN), Franclemont wants to spread the word that there is a financial help for those without health insurance to obtain those necessary screenings. Genesee County Legislature gave the health educator a proclamation Wednesday for her work in this field. Her message is especially fitting, given that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
“There’s no reason why anyone doesn’t have a mammogram now,” she said.
Franclemont has been a longtime staple at United Memorial Medical Center’s Healthy Living program in Batavia. When she began 15 years ago, this program was only available in Genesee County, she said.
“Now it’s in every county in New York State,” she said.
What & Who is Covered ...
The grant-funded GOWN program provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings for women 40 and older and colorectal cancer screenings for men and women 50+. According to Cancer Services Program literature, breast cancer is most often discovered in women 50 and older and colon cancer also targets men and women in that same age bracket. Cervical cancer has been more often found in women that had never been screened before.
Most health insurance companies cover these screenings at no cost to patients, but the uninsured aren’t so fortunate. That’s where Franclemont comes in: to educate and encourage people without medical insurance to call her at 585-344-5494 to ask questions, determine if they are eligible, and set up an appointment. For anyone out of the area, or that may have concerns outside of regular work hours, there is also a toll-free number available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-866-442-2262. Hablamos Español. There are translation services for other languages.
Another layer of protection for those uninsured is the Medicaid Treatment Act, Franclemont said. That will not only pay for cancer screenings, but also for the required diagnostics. So, for example, if a woman has a mammogram and receives a cancer diagnosis, she will be able to also obtain an ultrasound and a biopsy, as warranted, and covered by the Medicaid act would also pay for those services.
Breast Cancer: Symptoms & Stats ...
One in every eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer, program literature states. A mammogram has been the best way to find it, and symptoms may include a lump or pain in the breast, or changes in shape; irritation of the breast skin or nipples, such as itchiness, redness or flaking; and/or dimples in the breast skin, it states. Again, for emphasis: this program offers free breast cancer screening for eligible uninsured New York residents in every county and borough.
Breast cancer screenings are recommended every two years for women aged 50 to 74, unless other factors prompt an earlier screening, such as having a family history of breast cancer, being overweight, not getting enough exercise, late menopause of age 55 or older, and never having given birth or doing so at age 30 or older.
Colon cancer screenings for men and women are recommended to begin at age 50. Doctors are the largest source of referrals for Franclemont’s program, she said, and it’s, therefore, crucial to maintaining contact with one’s primary care physician or other health care provider.
Don't Want to Go Out? Stay Home ...
Another option for colon cancer screening is the colon kit, she said, which is an at-home test that has been shown to have an 80 percent efficacy rate. If something shows up in the kit, uninsured people would then be able to get a free colonoscopy, she said.
The biggest point is to just get screened. Medical facilities are following protocols and “using precautions” by ensuring staff is vaccinated and masked, which makes them safe places to visit, she said.
“It’s important that people still get screenings during the pandemic,” Franclemont said. “If people have any problems, they should call their doctors. Don’t ignore changes.”
The Cancer Services Program provides breast, cervical, and colon cancer screening at no cost to men and women who qualify. So, as related flyers state: Get screened, no excuses! For more information, call 585-344-5494.
If you’re in need of health insurance and live in New York State, you can check out the New York State of Health at nystateofhealth.ny.gov or call 1-855-355-5777.