Free breast exams in November yielded surprising results

Published 11:57 am Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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NATCHEZ — Two months ago, the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center parked a mobile clinic outside of Natchez Market 2 to provide free breast exams and mammograms to patients without insurance.

More than half of those patients required a follow-up and two received a cancer diagnosis.

The results of those screenings were surprising, organizers said.

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“Most of our screenings have a few people that need additional imaging,” said Johnnay Benjamin, director of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s “Prevention on the Go” program. “Our average number last year … was around the 25 to 29 percent range. What we saw from our screening in Natchez was that 52 percent of our patients needed that additional follow-up.”

Follow-up appointments — paid for through the support of donations and grants — were scheduled for 12 of the 23 women who took advantage of the free screening in November, Benjamin said.

Even more surprising was that two of the women who received a follow-up exam from a local provider wound up having a cancer diagnosis, Benjamin said.

“We were overwhelmed by the response and the need that was there,” Benjamin said. “There were ladies there that had not been screened recently — whether two years or five to ten years since they were able to have a mammogram. That spoke to us that there really is a need in the community, especially for ladies that do not have health insurance, to have a venue to receive a mammogram or screening. That is why we will be back again on Feb. 4 at the Natchez Market 2.”

Benjamin said the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Natchez offers radiation therapy while the overall organization provides a full range of cancer care.

“One of those aspects is early detection and education about cancers that can be found early through regular screening and ways we can reduce our risk,” she said.

Because the service is supported by grants and donations through the Susan G. Komen foundation for cancer research, the patient pays nothing, Benjamin said.

“Through the generosity of our donors, we are able to provide that service at no cost. So even if a lady does not have health insurance, she doesn’t have to be concerned about the cost of that service,” Benjamin said. “Anyone that has an abnormal finding, whether an abnormal breast exam or something that warrants additional imaging from the actual mammogram, we have a process to help facilitate that for the patient as well. We will make an appointment for them and cover the cost of any diagnostic imaging or biopsies needed.”

Benjamin said any lady 18 or older who does not have health insurance and has not been screened in the last 12 months is encouraged to call 888-616-4687 and make an appointment for the next free service on Feb. 4.

Masks are required and social distancing and sanitizing between patients will be enforced, Benjamin said.