Ladies First in the fight against cancer
According to the National Health Institute, cervical and breast cancer are the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. Furthermore, Latina women have the highest rate of cervical cancer among racial and ethnic groups. Early screening and detection is critical in preventing and treating cervical and breast cancer, and in Alaska, the Ladies First program is increasing access to breast and cervical health screenings among low income women.
The Ladies First program, which receives support from the YWCA’s Women’s Wellness program, covers the cost of mammograms, pap smears, and diagnostic tests for women who meet their income guidelines, are uninsured, or unable to pay for these procedures under their current insurance. Since 1995, the program has provided over 148,000 health screening services and identified almost 600 cases of breast cancer, 62 cases of cervical cancer, and over 4,000 pre-cancerous cervical conditions.
While these screenings are essential, navigating the healthcare system and even the Department of Health’s Ladies First program can be complex and time consuming. The YWCA’s Women’s Wellness program staff provides support by assisting with enrollment and providing transportation and language interpreters when necessary, all free of charge.
Anyone who thinks they may be eligible or in need can contact the DHS Ladies First Program at 1-800-410-6266 or contact the YWCA office at (907)-644-9600.
In addition to removing barriers to health screenings, the YWCA’s Women’s Wellness program works to educate the Anchorage area on the importance of early detection. According to Women’s Wellness manager Onica Sprokkreeff, “Volunteers are invaluable and always needed to help distribute education materials throughout the community, including their workplaces, churches, and neighborhoods.”
Whether it’s by volunteering with the Women’s Wellness program, spreading the word about the resources available to Alaskan women, reaching out for help, or encouraging friends and loved ones to do the same, everyone can do their part in reducing breast and cervical cancer mortality.