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Free mammogram offered through F.I.S.H. for uninsured women

By Staff | Aug 19, 2015

Mobile Mammo coach. PHOTO PROVIDED

The Radiology Regional Center’s Mobile Mammo coach will make a stop on Sanibel next week offering a quick, easy and convenient service for women on Sanibel and Captiva Island who are in need of having their annual mammogram done.

Program Director Christine Swiersz said F.I.S.H. formed a partnership with the Zonta Club of Sanibel and Captiva and Bailey’s three years ago to bring the Radiology Regional Center Mobile Mammo to Sanibel Island.

“Zonta provides the monetary support and Bailey’s provides the site and advertising, which I really appreciate,” she said.

The Mobile Mammo will make a stop on Sanibel Island from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, at Bailey’s General Store, 2477 Periwinkle Way. Every 15-minutes a new patient will be seen on the coach during the four hours of slotted time.

“It’s a great opportunity that they have that bus,” F.I.S.H. Assistant Program Director Jessi Zeigler said. “For a lot of people it makes a difference. We end of saving lives.”

Radiology Regional Center’s mammography technician helps prepare a patient for a mammogram on the Mobile Mammo coach. PHOTO PROVIDED

Through the Zonta grant, F.I.S.H. can provide free mammograms to women who do not have any insurance or Medicare coverage. The program is open to anyone who lives on the islands, or works on the island full time.

“When someone is interested we meet with them briefly and gather a small amount of information that is necessary to document that there is a need. Then we arrange for them to contact the Radiology Regional office to make their appointment for the date that we have in their computers there,” Swiersz said.

The grant money also assists women who need follow-up care after they have their mammogram screening.

“If they have an issue with the mammogram and have to go back because it might be something more, we do offer the opportunity for financial assistance again going through the same process if they need follow-up care,” Zeigler said. “A lot of people are underinsured or not insured completely and they don’t have that opportunity.”

She said with the grant from Zonta they were able to provide further assistance last year for two women who needed follow-up care.

Over the course of three years, Swiersz said they have been able to help 48 women through Zonta’s grant.

“It’s interesting how many of our recipients have family members – a mother or a grandmother, an aunt – who have died from breast cancer and they know how important it is to get checked. They just don’t have the resources to do it because of the lack of insurance coverage and a lack of funds,” Swiersz said.

She said having the opportunity to bring out the Mobile Mammo coach decreases the wait time women have to make to have their annual mammogram done.

Zeigler and Swiersz said it is important because “early detection is a prevention.”

“It gives them a peace of mind because if their mom passed, they can go and get a mammogram,” Swiersz said.

F.I.S.H. schedules the Mobile Mammo coach three times a year – in February or March, August and November.

“It is offered in the summer, fall and spring. We try to make it available every four months or so,” she said.

The ability to bring the coach out to Sanibel helps many of F.I.S.H’s clients.

“It’s easy to get to. We have clients that don’t have a vehicle. So to coordinate them to go off island to get a mammogram done, it’s very hard to pay out of pocket for them to pay for a taxi and then go all the way to Radiology Regional to come all the way back. It’s a one stop shop, which is nice,” Zeigler said of the coach.

Swiersz said many of their client s live close enough to Bailey’s that they can ride their bikes, many of which are provided through a F.I.S.H. program, to have their annual mammogram done.

“We have a bike distribution program, so if you don’t have a bike that either works or is in good shape, we always help with that to because we have resources that provides bikes that we just give our clients free of charge,” she said. “We want to make sure people can get around.”

The Mobile Mammo coach has been on the road for nearly five years traveling as far north as Tampa and occasionally as far south as Fort Lauderdale. Mobile Mammo Director Renee Palin said the coach will typically travel a 100-mile radius, but can expand beyond that if the need is there.

“This is a program where you can have the coach come to your business or event,” she said. “It provides convenience, easy access for women to get their screening done.”

Palin said although most of the women they see on the coach are done through appointments, walk-ins are also welcomed.

“It’s always important to pay attention to your breast, especially if you are just turning 40,” she said, adding that it is important to begin the annual routine of health care. “An annual mammogram will show changes and diagnose any problems that may have developed. Screening mammograms are the best way for early detection.”

A free breast cancer support and survivor support club, which is located on Sanibel, is facilitated by women who are survivors. Swiersz said the group of women offer their knowledge and support.

“I always find that they have been incredible for people that have been diagnosed. They really are a great support system,” she said. “They care about one another and one another’s needs.”

Swiersz and Zeigler are more than happy to connect women with the club, so they have that support mechanism.

Swiersz said another nice component of the mammogram program is it helps in identifying women who are in need of food assistance or other referral programs F.I.S.H. offers.

“A lot of time these are women that have not been identified yet from us, but could use assistance,” she said. “I always appreciate when we can help someone we didn’t know through this programming.”

For those interested in learning more about the free mammogram program, call Swiersz or Zeigler at (239) 472-4775.

To schedule an appointment with the coach, call (239) 936-4068.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.