Colorado Department of Public Health reminds women to prioritize cancer screening through grant-funded program

A cyclist pedals past the Summit Community Care Clinic in Frisco on Friday, September 3. Dr. David Biggs, an oncologist at St. Anthony Summit Hospital, recommends women take advantage of the opportunity to receive a free cancer screening. Biggs said annual to biannual breast cancer screening with early detection can reduce the death rate from breast cancer by nearly 20%.
Ashley Low / For the Daily News Summit

A campaign to help raise awareness of the Women’s Wellness Connection began. , The campaign provides a more accessible way for underinsured and uninsured women to benefit from breast and cervical cancer screening,

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment started the Women’s Wellness Connection program in 1991 to ease the financial burden of cancer screening for women. The program is funded by the federal government and hospitals can apply for grants to support the program in their local clinic.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many women have avoided medical facilities and halted their annual checkups, said Sarah Dayton, grants manager for the Summit Community Care Clinic. The clinic has been offering the program in Summit County since 2017 and free breast cancer screening since 2005.

“I feel like there are some women who are really good and keeping track, and I’ve talked to them where they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, gosh, I totally forgot because I messed up because of COVID,” Dayton said.

She speculated that one of the reasons the Department of Public Health might advertise the program again is to remind women of the importance of preventive care.

According to the statement According to the Ministry of Public Health, one in three women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime and one in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.

Dr. David Biggs provides hematology and oncology care at St. Anthony Summit Hospital in Frisco. He strongly encourages preventive examinations and said that screening with early detection can reduce the mortality rate caused by breast cancer by almost 20%.

He added that “no one should ever die of cervical cancer”, as long as they prioritize their Pap smear (also known as Pap smear) screenings.

During a Pap test, a doctor removes a woman’s cervix to check for cancer cells. It is recommended that women over the age of 21 get tested every three to five years in addition to an HPV test, according to the press release.

Biggs recommended that breast cancer screenings start at age 40 and be done once or twice a year.

“Women who are prevented from getting tested because of lack of access, these are things that we in this society should be able to overcome,” he said.

Women’s Wellness Connection helps reduce these barriers.

“Anything I can do to help spread the word about free cancer screening is extremely helpful,” Biggs said.

From June 2021 to June 2022, Summit Care Clinic provided 303 women with free screening services. In addition, 213 women received free cervical cancer screenings and 144 women received free breast cancer screenings.

If a client does not have insurance, the entire visit is covered by a grant from the state public health department.

The grant pays for in-office clinical breast exams, including mammograms, x-rays, x-ray readings, and even a biopsy if needed after the breast exam. For cervical cancer, the program pays for a Pap test and an HPV test, the lab results of that test, and the cost of a procedure if the HPV test results are positive.

Dayton said the clinic provides services at their facility or at St. Anthony Summit Hospital. Proceedings at St. Anthony are financially covered by a memorandum of understanding, Dayton said.

The program is offered to underinsured or uninsured women.

Dayton recommended that underinsured women talk to their doctors about participating in the program.

According to the Women’s Wellness Connection webpage, to qualify, household income levels for a single person must “generally” be less than $34,000 per year and for a four-person household, about $70,000.

Women’s Wellness Connection is offered at more than 100 hospitals in Colorado. For more information about the program or to see if you are eligible, visit