COLUMN: Free cancer screenings available to uninsured; income limits do not apply

— I recently had the opportunity to meet with health professionals who work to prevent cancer and help detect the disease in its early stages. I wanted to draw attention to a great program they manage available to residents in both Oswego and Onondaga counties that screens participants for breast, cervical, prostate and colorectal cancer for free. Not only does the program provide screenings for free, but if someone is diagnosed with cancer through the program, treatment is available at no cost.

Here’s how the Cancer Services Program works: If you are over the age of 40 and do not have insurance, you can call the county in which you reside for the free screening. In Oswego County, the number is 592-0830. In Onondaga County, the number is 435-3653. Participants are given some basic information about the program and directed to their primary care or OB-GYN doctor to make an appointment. Participants see their regular providers and the bill is paid for through this state-funded program after enrolling.

If cancer is detected, participants are enrolled in Medicaid, which pays for the treatment and any other health-related costs during the time patients are treated for cancer. Funding has been set aside in Medicaid’s budget in the Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program as part of New York State’s commitment to early treatment and detection of cancer. Cancer is one of the most common chronic diseases in New York and is second only to heart disease as the leading cause of death. Each year, more than 100,000 New Yorkers are diagnosed and nearly one in four deaths in the state is due to cancer. Without insurance, it costs an estimated $80,000 for one year of colon cancer treatment. A colon-cancer screening can cost $2,000 without coverage.

In 2011, the Cancer Services Program of Oswego County screened almost 500 community members. According to the US Census Bureau, that was only 13 percent of the eligible population. That means 77 percent of eligible community members are not taking advantage of the free cancer screenings that are available to them through the Cancer Services Program in Oswego County.

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