Forty-one women received free screening for cervical, breast and skin cancers last Saturday at the UMMC Cancer Institute clinics at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center.
“UMMC and its partners provided a fantastic opportunity for participants to receive cancer screenings, which otherwise would have been difficult to access,” said Dr. Stephen Raab, professor of pathology, who led efforts to get a grant to cover some costs and to provide the screening opportunity. “This activity shows that UMMC employees and community participants can break down barriers to work as a multidisciplinary team to provide much-needed care for the underserved population of Jackson and the rest of Mississippi.”
Health providers know increasing screening for cervical and breast cancer will reduce deaths. Many cervical abnormalities caught early can be treated before they become malignant. But not all women have access to screening or can afford it. Last Saturday, the women also could choose to be screened for acral melanoma, a type of skin cancer that primarily strikes African-Americans.
Dr. Susan Shamburger, assistant professor of radiology, reviews a mammography image.
The event was part of the College of American Pathologists Foundation's See, Test & Treat® Program that provides free breast and pelvic cancer screenings to underserved women. CAP provided a grant to cover some costs, UMMC employees and students volunteered for the Saturday screening and New Horizon Church recruited women to participate.
Of the 30 women who received a mammography, 11 had abnormal readings. Of the 33 who received Pap tests, two had abnormal readings. Of the 41 women screened for acral melanoma, four were referred for follow up. Physicians or nurses discussed the results with each of the women and they were provided names and contacts for medical providers for follow up.
The Pathology department added a unique aspect to this screening: A pathologist showed women a digital image from their Pap test slides and “provided immediate interpretation of their Pap test,” Raab said.
Conditions other than cancer can cause an abnormal reading. But an abnormal result does mean a woman needs follow-up testing to determine the cause.
“This has been a red carpet experience,” said participant Mangle Shanks of Jackson. “Everybody was so very friendly, very good customer service environment. Everyone was so helpful and showed a lot of concern on my behalf.”
Shanks, who lost her job and medical coverage in December, said she was especially interested in getting a mammogram.
“I learned about this at the last minute and got in.”
For Rita Jordan of Jackson, the opportunity came when she needed it. Since her insurance has a very high deductible, she said she has to choose what care she gets.
“I recently had surgery and I'm still paying the last medical bills on installments,” she said. “This came at an opportune time.”
Smiling, she reported her results were good.
Others also complimented the volunteers.
“This is the closest to the red carpet I have ever been,” said Virginia Pauline Rogers of Jackson.
“The response was overwhelmingly positive,” said Dr. Roy Duhe, the UMMC Cancer Institute's associate director for education. “There were 100 people who stepped up to volunteer in planning and execution of this event. They did this as a labor of love.”
Dr. Jasmine Hollinger, assistant professor of dermatology, examines Willie Perkins of Jackson for signs of acral melanoma while Ashley May, an LPN in the dermatology department, stands ready with the ever-present paperwork.
Volunteers came from multiple departments at UMMC to check in women; provide the screenings; read the pathology and radiologic imaging; provide same-day results; offer health education, nutrition and exercise education; and confer with women on insurance coverage.
Medical and nursing students completed tasks from helping escort women from one screening to another to aiding in the testing.
“The passion people put into this event represents how much we need this service,” Duhe said. “We had support from top to bottom of this organization.”
Volunteer Matthew Alias, a first-year medical student, prepares to escort a woman to her first screening.
“I believe in this cause,” said Dr. Mildred Ridgway, professor of gynecologic oncology, who led the cervical cancer screening team. “I'm aware of women's health issues and want to improve lives in our communities.”
Dr. Harpreet Talwar, chief of women's breast imaging at UMMC, called the event a “great thing.”
“Preventative care is the best care and screening is preventative,” she said. “A mother's instinct is to take care of family first. If they can take care of themselves, they can take care of their family.”
New Horizon Church, the home church of Dr. Jasmine Hollinger, assistant professor of dermatology, joined the effort to lead recruiting women to the program.
“Our church is in South Jackson and one of our missions is to be a beacon in the community,” Hollinger said. “We do a lot of health advocacy at our church, so this was a good fit.”
New Horizon congregational nurses were joined by colleagues from other churches in recruiting women for the screening and in supervising the snacks and lunches on the day of the event. They also were on hand to support women whose screenings were positive.
“In health care, we try to let them know there are resources available,” Hollinger said. “Because you may not have insurance, you should not neglect your health.”
Sarah Short, a cytotechnologist, reviews Pap test slides.
Other groups present last Saturday included the Mississippi Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, operated by the Mississippi State Department of Health; Jackson Hinds Comprehensive Health Care; and the Susan G. Komen Central Mississippi Steel Magnolias chapter. Other groups helping sponsor the screening included the Mississippi Congregational Network of Nurses & Advocates, Hologic and Philips.
Plans for the screening started more than six months ago and the need became even more obvious last week when researchers writing for the journal Cancer reported deaths from cervical cancer were higher than earlier calculated and that black women die of this cancer at much higher rates than do white women.
“Mississippi has a high death rate from cervical cancer, so if we screened and caught it early, we wouldn't have as high a death rate,” said Dr. Robert Brodell, interim chair of the Department of Pathology and professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology.
Annie Davis participates in the exercise demonstration led by UMMC occupational therapists Summer Brewer and Diane Satterfield.
The U.S. Cancer Statistics Working group, using data from 2013, reported that on a national scale, Mississippi is 45th in incidence of breast cancer in women; third in mortality from breast cancer; tenth in incidence of cervical cancer; and first in deaths from cervical cancer.
Providing results the day of the screening allowed physicians and nurses to talk to the women about those results and encourage appropriate follow-up care.
“I think it's quite possible we can save a life,” Brodell said. “Imagine if we do these screenings in populations that are underserved multiple times a year.”