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Nevada health care workers breaking down barriers for breast cancer screenings

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Posted at 7:44 AM, Sep 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-21 10:44:20-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Busy schedules, fear and money - those are barriers that often keep women from getting a mammogram.

Health care workers in Nevada are trying to break down those barriers and make it easier for women to get screened.

Charlow Peterson was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in September 2020. Her journey started on a walk with a friend and she was venting about some pain she’d been experiencing.

“I was telling her I had some lumps that were irritating my left breast and she said you need to get that checked out. I said well I don’t have any insurance right now,” Peterson said.

After some encouragement, Peterson made a phone call to Nevada Health Centers only to find out her lack of insurance wasn’t a problem.

Peterson got her mammogram inside the Mammovan which tours around the state of Nevada. Program manager Rhonda Johnson says donors make it possible for women without insurance to get screened.

“I’m so grateful to them. It gets me a little emotional because if it wasn’t for them, I would have pushed it off and I’d be sitting here today with who knows what stage of breast cancer,” Peterson said.

Another barrier women often face is fear. But Peterson says the process was not painful.

“If you’ve never had a mammogram before you’ve heard stories from somebody where they say oh they squish you, and it hurts and it’s uncomfortable. It was nothing like that. There was no pain, no discomfort, the way they handle you and talk to you,” Peterson said.

Johnson says that by design they now use a curved plate to avoid any sharp edges or tugging.

Women can also struggle to put themselves first, which acts as another barrier, according to Johnson.

“Women are caregivers, they give all their attention to families. They don't pay attention to themselves as much and we are changing that message to say care about yourself,” Johnson said.

The screening is quick, about 30 minutes. Peterson, who is a single working mom, says he is happy she made time for it as that 30-minute screening could save your life.

“You’re putting yourself in a better position, number one and most importantly to survive. To go on and see your children grow, to see your great-grandchildren. Early detection is what we go for. It’s also the least invasive treatment. You’re not going to go on for years, the fight isn’t going to be as hard,” Johnson added.

Peterson is still in treatment now. She got her mammogram for free and every penny of her treatment, medication and reconstruction surgery is also taken care of. That’s because she applied for Nevada Medicaid for breast cancer.

There are some eligibility requirements. Applications and forms can be found here.