Southwest Virginia medical centers receive funding to expand access to breast cancer screenings

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 4:58 PM EDT
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(WDBJ) - Uninsured and underinsured individuals in Southwest Virginia now have more options for breast cancer screening.

$190,000 is going toward medical centers in SWVA to help those who may not be able to afford diagnostic testing. The SWVA chapter of the Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is giving Ballad Health in Abingdon $50,000, Centra Health in Lynchburg $50,000 and Carilion Clinic in Roanoke and Southside locations $90,000.

The senior director of the foundation explained because medical screenings and testing are expensive, patients are having to make tough decisions.

“You’re choosing between paying your rent or paying your electric bill versus having this procedure, and we want to make sure that all people have the ability to have the services, whether they can afford them or not,” Catherine Warren said.

The money will go toward providing mammograms, ultrasound screenings, tomosynthesis, biopsies, cyst aspirations, MRI’s and pathology.

Centra Health’s director of breast imaging explained early detection is key.

“Putting off necessary testing just allows potential cancers to increase in size and that makes treatment a little bit more challenging,” Anita Gillespie said.

A recent poll from Gallup showed 38% of people put off medical testing because it’s too expensive. In 2022, Carilion Clinic was able to provide 285 services with $39,000 of the funding. Officials anticipate to triple the number of services in 2023.

“I’ve had patients say that they just finished paying off last year’s procedure and they just don’t have the money,” Gillespie said.

The foundation raises money throughout the year to help patients with early detection and prevention.

“Around 7,100 Virginians will be diagnosed with breast cancer every year,” Warren said. “The five-year survival rate if you are diagnosed early is over 99%, so getting people in and into the continuum of care is so important.”

Patients who live in Virginia and are at or below the 400% Federal Poverty Guideline are eligible for reduced cost screenings. More information on eligibility can be found here.