Nearly Half of New Orleans-Area Women Eligible for No-Cost Cancer Screenings
In the wake of COVID-19, nationwide reports have shown an alarming 60-90 percent drop in people getting routine cancer screenings, a plunge experts say will result in more undiagnosed cancers, and cancers being diagnosed at later stages, when treatment is less effective. Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Louisiana Breast & Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) and its long-time provider partner, The St. Thomas Community Health Center, are joining together to urge women to get their regular mammograms now, as well as to provide any help overcoming barriers a woman might face getting a screening done.
Breast cancer is a major killer in Louisiana, which has the second highest breast cancer death rate among the 50 states. Black women are significantly more likely to get breast cancer, as well as die from it, which is one of the reasons that number is so high. The good news is that Louisiana can change that number with early detection, which is why LBCHP has been providing no-cost mammograms and Pap tests to women who qualify across the state for almost 20 years. The need for these screenings in the greater New Orleans area is evident with 41 percent of all women ages 21-64 being eligible for LBCHP services, and 61 percent of Black women qualifying.
“Even before COVID-19, there were many women who were uncomfortable getting a mammogram,” said Dr. Donna Williams, director of the Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs, of which LBCHP is a part. “They don’t need to be! Thanks to early detection, breast cancer is almost 100-percent survivable. And our patient navigators can help a woman with any issues she may have in getting screened.”
Kolbi Murphy is the LBCHP patient navigator at St. Thomas, and the helping hand setting up appointments for women to get those screenings, which are done at other facilities. She can schedule women for clinical breast exams, expert consultations, and triage women with abnormalities at St. Thomas, while also referring women to other hospitals and clinics for mammograms, Pap tests and diagnostic care that can sometimes be hard to access. Murphy is there not only to make sure women can get in for screenings, but to overcome any other barriers they might face, such as co-pays, a lack of transportation and even fear.
“The medical system can be confusing. But that’s why I’m here! I can walk and talk women through everything and anything that might stand in their way,” said Murphy. “Scared of getting a mammogram? I’ll tell you exactly what to expect. Need a co-pay or gas money to get to a screening? I can help. I can even help with language issues. Just call me!”
To reach Murphy, call 504-331-9998. As the patient navigator, she can help with breast services for women, ages 40-64 (or anyone having symptoms) and for Pap tests, women, ages 21-64.
LBCHP is part of The Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs (LCP), which eliminate suffering and death by focusing on cancers that can be prevented or detected early and cured. Those include breast, cervical and HPV-related, colorectal and lung and tobacco-related cancers. LCP is funded mainly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is housed at LSU Health New Orleans’ School of Public Health. To learn more go to louisianacancer.org.