PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

October 15, 2013

Organizations offer support to cancer patients

Tommy Mann Jr.
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — Dealing with the nightmare of a breast cancer diagnosis can be a strain on even the strongest person regardless of economic status. For those with medical insurance, the knowledge of some form of financial support is comforting, but for those without, it could be the difference between life and death unless you know where to look.

The Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located in Beaumont and serving all of Southeast Texas. It was established in 1994 by Regina Rogers as a tribute to her mother, Julie, a breast cancer survivor who who had a double mastectomy in 1988 and who died following complications from a stroke and heart attack in 1998.

The organization, which was originally dedicated to providing free mammograms for medically underserved women, has funded nearly 23,000 free mammograms. Its services have since expanded and the organization has provided more than 6,000 free prostate cancer screenings, conducted more than 700 educational outreach encounters since its inception, reaching approximately 110,000 people, according to its website.

“If you are uninsured and you end up diagnosed with breast cancer, you have to meet certain criteria to be eligible for free services and treatments,” said Telice Meadows, a Registered Nurse with the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program. “That would include the surgery, treatment and follow-up care.”

The Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program provided 2,216 mammograms and clinical breast exams in 2012. Of those examined, 11 were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Through August of 2013, the program has provided 1,341 free mammogram screenings with eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The more staggering fact is that 84.9 percent of clients in the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program stated they had not had a mammogram because they could not afford health insurance.

This criteria for eligibility into the free services and treatment program, according to Meadows, can be found on the Texas Department of State Health Services website under the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services Program (BCCS).

According to its website, the Texas BCCS program offers low-income women, ages 18-64, access to screening and diagnostic services for breast and cervical cancer.

Qualifications include a level of low income, at or below the 200 percent Federal Poverty Income Guideline. For a single person, the maximum annual gross family income amount is $22,980 to be eligible. The maximum amount increases by $8,040 for each person added to the family unit, so, for example, the maximum annual gross income for a family of five would be $55,140 to be eligible for these services.

Other qualifications of the program include having no insurance or being underinsured, between ages 40 - 64 for breast cancer screening and diagnostic services, ages 21 - 64 for cervical cancer screening services and ages 18 - 64 for cervical cancer diagnostic services.

Meadows said the program, for someone that is low income qualifier, would include the follow up screening and a biopsy.

“If the biopsy is positive, we would refer them to a local clinic, which we use the UTMB clinics in this area,” she continued. “It could take four-to-five weeks from time of diagnosis to the time they are ready for treatment, so it’s relatively quick in a sense.”

For those who do not meet the criteria, or are underinsured or have insurance, there are other options available.

“There are not a lot of programs, but there are a lot of cash programs where they will make arrangements or schedule a surgery after a down payment has been made,” she said. “There are also assistance programs for medication and assistance payment programs. There are a lot of options available. You just have to make the calls and do the foot-work first. People who aren’t qualified will still get referred to a physician or surgeon which meets their needs.”

According to information provided by the Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program, in the event of an abnormal screening in the diagnosis stage, skilled and empathetic bilingual Gift of Life case managers navigate patients through additional testing. This year, more than 350 women with abnormal screenings received follow-up evaluations that included diagnostic mammography and/or ultrasound.

If breast cancer is detected, program case managers will guide each woman through the treatment phase with support and compassion. As a collaborative team, the organization’s staff, with local oncologists and treatment counselors, develops a holistic healthcare strategy customized for each woman with consideration of her medical, mental and social needs.

Call 409-860-3369 to see if you qualify for a free screening or visit www.giftoflifebmt.org for more information.