‘Mobile’ event off

Local health officials have said regular screenings, such as a mammography, can be key in early detection and successful treatment of breast cancer.

Awareness and early detection through regular screenings is key in surviving a breast cancer diagnosis.

It is a message preached by the Sampson County Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) Advisory Board, which had plans to partner with the Sampson County Health Department and Rex Mobile Mammography to literally drive that point home this week.

However, after just four people inquired to fill 25 available appointment slots from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Wednesday, April 29, the event had to be canceled. The Rex Mobile Mammography Unit was scheduled to be parked at the Sampson County Health Department on 360 County Complex Road to conduct screenings.

“I don’t think we got the word out as good as we should have,” said Health Department educator Luke Smith, noting, “We are going to plan to get them back in the future.”

Rex Mobile Mammography Unit offers high-quality mammography services to areas where women have difficulty accessing healthcare. That fits well with the goal of the N.C. BCCCP, which each year strives to provide services to over 12,000 women, including free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings and follow-up to eligible women all across North Carolina.

Local support is given to the Sampson County chapter that helps pay specifically for mammograms, brochures and other educational materials as well as pink ribbons and other outreach and awareness programs.

While funding was going to be made available for women without insurance as part of this week’s event, most insurances are accepted by Rex Mobile Mammography — a benefit in that it widens the potential populous who can take advantage of the service, Smith noted.

According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer. The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman’s death is about 1 in 36 (about 3 percent). Death rates have declined steadily since about 1989, with larger decreases in women younger than 50.

Those decreases are believed to be the result of earlier detection through screening and increased awareness, as well as improved treatment, the ACS states.

Currently, there are close to 3 million breast cancer survivors in the United States alone. However, it is an affliction that does not stop.

According to Susan G. Komen, it is estimated that in 2015 there will be 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer among U.S. women and 60,290 new cases of in situ breast cancer, the majority being ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive breast cancer. And even through death rates have declined over the years, breast cancer is still anticipated to claim more 40,290 female lives in 2015.

“There are a lot of women who otherwise would not have been able to afford to get a mammogram, and some who didn’t even know they could get a mammogram for free,” Sampson County BCCCP spokeswoman Nettie Pernell has said. “People put things off because they can’t afford them. They put their health on the backburner, and they don’t know there are services out there available to them.”

Pernell, who lost her mother to breast cancer when she was just a young teenager, said she and the other members of the 15-strong local BCCCP group constantly try to spread the word, along with Health officials, asking people to tell their friends, their colleagues and their church.

“It never ceases to amaze me that we still find people who say they didn’t know there was something like that available to them,” she said just last year. “That’s why (spreading) the word is so important, to get that information to the masses, not only for Sampson County but for surrounding counties.”

Smith said what would have been a first-time partnership with Rex Mobile Mammography could prove beneficial to many here. While a reschedule date is up in the air, Smith said she sees it happening.

“This is something we do want to do,” said Smith.