As many as 500 uninsured women from the county, Manassas and Manassas Park will receive free mammograms, thanks to a $65,000 grant awarded to Prince William Hospital.
Although the hospital was awarded the grant in January by the National Race for the Cure to offer the free X-rays, which detect breast tumors, officials are heavily promoting the free service now in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through October.
To qualify for a free examination, a woman must be older than 35, make less than $35,000 a year, be uninsured and have never had breast cancer symptoms, such as a lump in the breast. She also must never have been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Women with health insurance are not eligible for the free exam but still can be examined, for $65. The price, which is about half the typical rate, includes the hospital's and radiologist's fees.
Lou Morgan, director of diagnostics at Prince William Hospital and the grant's author, said that about 250 area women already have taken advantage of the service.
"It's been well-received by the residents," Morgan said, adding that his goal is to encourage women to get into the habit of receiving annual breast examinations.
According to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the parent of National Race for the Cure, approximately 30 percent of all breast cancer deaths could be avoided if every woman older than 50 received yearly mammograms. In Virginia in 1996, 28 percent of all women older than 50 who were surveyed said they had not received a mammogram in the past two years.
The chances of being diagnosed with breast cancer, which is the most common cancer in women and accounts for one of every three cancer diagnoses in the nation, can be reduced with yearly physical examinations and regular screening mammograms, as well as self-examinations, Morgan said.
Kristin Kelly, spokeswoman for the Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, said yearly grants are awarded by its affiliates, such as the National Race for the Cure. The affiliates hold fund-raising races every year, and a portion of the proceeds go to these local grants. Grant recipients are chosen after a long process, which includes assessing the needs of area communities.
Morgan said the hospital offers bus and cab services to the free exams, as well as county-wide mobile van mammography services for women who cannot get to the hospital on their own.
Although referrals for the exams are required, any woman interested in the free service should call Prince William Hospital's central scheduling office, at 703-369-8073.