For the seventh year in a row, the YWCA NorthEastern New York has received a grant to provide free mammograms and breast cancer awareness information to women in need.
The $35,000, one-year grant, awarded by the Avon Foundation for Women, will fund the Y’s Encore: “Take Charge of Your Health” program, which teaches women proper breast self-exam techniques and offers referrals for free mammograms and clinical breast exams to those age 40 or older.
“In the Capital District, there’s a very large number of women that are uninsured and therefore don’t get proper education for breast cancer awareness,” said Jo-Anne Rafalik, development/communications director for the YWCA NorthEastern New York.
The grant money will pay the salaries of two bilingual staff people and the cost for educational materials that will be distributed at the Y and throughout the community at health fairs and group presentations.
“We go to Walmart, we go to Price Choppers, we go to Hannafords, any place that might allow us to pass out information and also to talk to their employees, because a lot of people that are making minimum wage or just not quite enough to have health insurance, we also target those people because they do fall through the cracks,” Rafalik said.
Since January 2009, the program has reached more than 3,300 women with information about the importance of early breast cancer detection and has referred close to 2,000 women for mammograms and clinical breast exams.
“We teach them how to know what their ‘normal’ is, and what signs to look for and how to give yourself an exam. We teach them about heredity, like if it runs in your family, this is what you really need to look for,” explained Irene McMahon Foster, the program’s coordinator.
Women over 40 with no health insurance are referred for free clinical breast exams and mammograms through the New York State Cancer Services Program.
“Not only do you get free screenings through this program, but you also get free treatment if something is wrong,” McMahon Foster said.
So many women have taken advantage of the “Take Charge of Your Health” program because they feel comfortable coming to the Y when they have questions about their health, Rafalik said.
“The YWs in many communities, including Schenectady, have always been a go-to place for people to call for information. We’ve always had a hotline and we’re open 24 hours,” she noted.
“One of our hallmark programs has always been women’s health, and so women are very used to coming here and looking for those types of services.”
Women interested in obtaining educational materials or breast health screenings can call the Y at 374-3394.
Groups of three or more wishing to receive a breast health presentation at an outside location can call McMahon Foster at 374-3394, extension 125.