AAPHC offers free health screenings

AAPHC offers free health screenings
Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2022 at 7:00 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Albany Area Primary Health care (AAPHC) is now offering free women’s health screenings to those without insurance.

The breast and cervical cancer program, or BCCP, focuses on women who often don’t get the medical help they need.

The program is a collaboration between the CDC, Phoebe hospital, the State Department of Public Health and Southwest Georgia’s Pathology and lab core.

Through this program, women are able to get exams done for free like the clinical breast and other services beyond that.

Betsy Powell, the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program Coordinator, said the free screenings are very important.

“If there’s an abnormal clinic breast exam, they can have a diagnostic mammogram if necessary,” Powell said. “From that point on, if the individual requires further diagnostic testing, such as an ultrasound, some ladies actually go onto biopsy. The program actually pays for all of that.”

Since the start of the program, Powell said they have screened over 2,000 patients.

“Every year, based on our performance, the CDC sets a screening goal for us. For next year, our screening goal is 450 patients. We’ve never had a year, except one, that we did not meet our goal. That was the first year of the pandemic,” Powell said.

Dr. John Vance, the chief medical officer at Albany Area Primary Healthcare, said the number of uninsured patients, as well as their access to affordable healthcare, is concerning.

John Vance is the chief medical officer at Albany Area Primary Healthcare
John Vance is the chief medical officer at Albany Area Primary Healthcare(WALB)

“They may want to get screened, they may want to get the appropriate test done, but with cost being so high, especially if they don’t have insurance, a lot of people become afraid and it becomes too daunting to even proceed from there. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still worry about it,” Vance said.

There are 12 primary clinics within the Albany area that participate in the BCCP program. Anyone can sign up at any time.

With Breast Cancer Awareness next month, women may want to start thinking about these health screenings.

Since the start of their BCCP program, the Albany Area Primary Healthcare Center has identified 10 cases of breast cancer, and one case of cervical cancer.

Vance said it differs from patient to patient when it comes to when women should start focusing on getting a health screening.

“For breast cancer, it actually depends somewhat on your family history. So if you have a first-degree relative. A mother, sister who’s had breast cancer, you should start screening 10 years earlier than they were diagnosed with their cancer,” he said.

For the average woman, he recommends starting at the age of 50 but he said some medical societies recommend starting at age 40.

“For cervical cancer, generally, you start doing the Pap smear exams after they’ve become sexually active. There’s actually not an age cutoff to begin,” Vance said. “So with that, that’s done at least every three to five years depending on what their previous Pap smear results have been.”

As for ways of prevention, Vance recommends staying as healthy as you can.

“Definitely don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of just about every cancer,” he said. “Try to maintain a normal weight. Meaning, you know, exercise daily if you can. Try to eat as healthy as you can with fruit, vegetables, drinking water (and) lean meats.”

For more information about the 12 AAPHC’s that offer the BCCP program, click here.