Kalamazoo, MI—Uninsured women in Southwest Michigan who need a mammogram to screen for breast cancer can once again receive help through a popular initiative known as Pink Saturdays.  The 7th annual program, supported by virtually every hospital, radiology group and cancer center in the region, will provide free mammograms in the month of October.  Appointments can be scheduled now by calling 1-800-873-0649 and there are 1,500 slots available on a first come, first serve basis.   

To qualify for a free mammogram, a woman must be uninsured, between the ages of 40 to 64 and live in one of the following eight Southwest Michigan counties:  Allegan, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph, or Van Buren.  In addition, a recipient’s household income cannot exceed $50,000 and she cannot have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the past three years. 

(Women who are 65 years or older automatically qualify for a mammogram through Medicare. Those who are not residents of the named counties may contact a statewide hotline, 800-922-MAMM, or call the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program at 800-CDC-INFO for assistance.)

The importance of early detection and treatment of breast cancer was a driving force behind the creation of Pink Saturdays, according to Joseph Mirro, MD, CEO/CMO of West Michigan Cancer Center. “Women diagnosed at an early stage have a much higher cure rate”, says Mirro.  “According to the US Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, only 36% of uninsured women age 40-64 get an annual screening mammogram compared to 74% of insured women in the same group”, he adds.    

Bunny LaDuke, Executive Director of the Southwest Michigan Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, cites health insurance data from the US Census Bureau which shows that an estimated 15% of Michigan’s female population is uninsured. “That translates into more than 15,000 women in Southwest Michigan who are uninsured and eligible for a free screening mammogram”, adds LaDuke.  

This year, Pink Saturdays is focused on increasing breast cancer screening rates among uninsured African American and Hispanic women. According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 20% of African Americans and 30% of Hispanics/Latinos are uninsured, compared to 15% of non-Hispanic whites.  Also, while African American women are less likely than Caucasian women to get breast cancer, they are more likely to die from the disease than any other group, according to the CDC.  Pink Saturdays is partnering with the Hispanic American Council of Kalamazoo as well as local churches to reach minority populations.

“Cancer has no color or ethnicity”, said Joseph Mirro, MD, President and CEO of the West Michigan Cancer Center and Chairperson of Pink Saturdays.  “We have a strong initiative to make sure all eligible women take an active role in breast health and have the opportunity for a free mammogram”, he adds.

The public is invited to attend the official launch of the 2013 Pink Saturdays campaign on Tuesday, September 10th at 9:00 am at Galilee Baptist Church, 1216 North Westnedge, Kalamazoo. 

Partners in the Pink Saturday 2013 initiative include:  Access Breast Cancer Screenings; Advanced Radiology Services PC—Kalamazoo Division; Allegan General Hospital; Branch Medical Imaging; Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital; Borgess Medical Center; Borgess-Pipp Hospital; Borgess Westside; Borgess at Woodbridge Hills; Bronson Advanced Radiology Services; Bronson Battle Creek; Bronson Center for Women; Bronson Diagnostics at Woodbridge; Bronson LakeView Hospital; Community Health Center of Branch County; Lakeland Center for Outpatient Services; Lakeland Regional Medical Center, St. Joseph; Lakeland Community Hospital, Niles; Lakeland Community Hospital, Watervliet; Lakeland HealthCare Marie Yeager Cancer Center; Mary Coleman Mammography; Oaklawn Hospital;  Premier Radiology; Radiology Associates of Berrien County; Radiology Consultants PLC; South Haven Health System; Southwest Michigan Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program; Southwest Michigan Radiology; Sturgis Hospital; Summit Radiology PC; Three Rivers Health; Western Michigan University School of Medicine (WMed) and  West Michigan Cancer Center.  The project was made possible through a community grant from the Southwest Michigan Affiliate of Susan G. Komen.  For more information visit www.pinksaturdays.org on the web, on Facebook, or call 269-384-8624.  

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ABOUT PINK SATURDAYS

Pink Saturdays started with nine participating facilities in 2007. Today, West Michigan Cancer Center, Access Breast Cancer Screenings and the Southwest Michigan Breast and Cervical Cancer Control Program (BCCCP) organize and implement the program with more than 32 other participating organizations. West Michigan Cancer Centerserves as fiduciary for the program.  Since its inception, Pink Saturdays has provided more than 7,700 free screening mammograms.   37 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Their follow-up care and treatment was paid for through funding from BCCCP and Medicaid.