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According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in women in the U.S. in 2018, along with 63,960 new cases of non-invasive (DCIS) breast cancer. Approximately 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

Unfortunately, many of these women worry that they don’t have the financial resources or insurance coverage to even seek an evaluation of an abnormal lump they feel in their breast, a lump that may be breast cancer. They may wait until symptoms can no longer be ignored and then go to the emergency room, but by then the cancer may have progressed to the point that it’s difficult to treat. It’s a heartbreaking situation for these women, their families, and the doctors who want to help them.

Tennessee Offers Help

Fortunately, the Tennessee Department of Health offers help. The Tennessee Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (TBCCP) serves lower income women who are concerned they may have cancer. The mission of the program is to reach and serve lower income uninsured or underinsured women for basic preventive health screening exams with the belief that cancer screening saves lives.

The Tennessee Breast and Cervical Cancer Program provides breast and cervical cancer screening to eligible women, including diagnostic follow-up tests for those with suspicious results or for women who feel a lump in their breast. Women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer or pre-cancerous conditions for these cancers are then enrolled for treatment coverage through the state’s TennCare Program.

All women for any service—screening, diagnosis, or treatment—must meet the general eligibility guidelines for the program. Eligibility requirements include:

  • Income: 250% of the Federal Poverty Line or less.
  • Uninsured or underinsured.
  • Mammograms available for women 50-64, or starting at age 40 if family history of breast cancer.
  • Pap and other cervical services for women starting at age 40
  • Women younger than 40 who meet these general eligibility requirements can be enrolled for diagnosis and/or treatment services when they have suspicious results from screening services or find an abnormality on their own physical examination.

Mary (not her real name) had felt a mass in her breast for over a year. But she was ashamed that she did not have health insurance. She finally went to the emergency room when the mass broke through her skin and started to ooze. Fortunately, we could treat her breast cancer, but the treatments were more extensive than they needed to be had she sought care as soon as she had felt her mass.

Shelly (not her real name) was a young mother of four. She felt a mass but did not have any health insurance. She also had four kids to raise and could not take the time to care for herself. Her daughter forced her to go to the emergency room when she could see the large cancer through her mother’s blouse.

Breast cancer will not go away by itself and eventually the breast cancer will become too obvious to ignore.

It’s estimated that 65,000 women in Tennessee will be eligible for the program. If you feel a lump in your breast or have other symptoms such as swelling or hardening of the breast or bloody nipple discharge, please don’t put off seeking medical help just because you fear you don’t have the financial resources or insurance to cover the costs. The TBCCP can help.

To schedule an appointment for breast and cervical screening services, contact your local health department. The TBCCP is managed through your county health department, and so your county health department needs to be contacted. The county health department will arrange for you to be evaluated at the health department by a nurse practitioner. The nurse practitioner will then arrange for diagnostic tests. You may also contact my office and we can help you contact your local health department. My office will always help you seek care, regardless of your ability to pay. We can help, but only of you let us know you have an abnormality.

Dr. Margulies is committed to serving breast cancer patients through a solo practice in Breast Surgical Oncology and General Surgery with offices at Tennova Turkey Creek Medical Center in West Knoxville, at Tennova North Knoxville Medical Center in Powell, at Jefferson Memorial Hospital, and in Newport. His extensive research and expertise have distinguished him as a leader in the field of breast cancer surgical oncology. To learn more about Dr. Margulies’ compassionate surgical care approach, visit www.aaronmd.com or call (865) 692-1610.