Pink ribbon awareness

Katherine Erlichman can’t say it enough: Early detection saves lives.

And one way to detect breast cancer early is to conduct self-examinations and mammograms.

Again this year, the Pink Ribbon Fund and UPMC Bedford Memorial is holding Mammography Day Oct. 22 at the hospital from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Women may walk in to the hospital, get a mammography, and enjoy some of the other comforts provided by vendors while they wait.

Katherine Erlichman, local ophthalmologist and chairmwoman of the Pink Ribbon Fund, said 36 mammograms were conducted last year. The test actually caught breast cancer in one patient.

“So, that’s huge,” Erlichman said.

St. Francis University students will be at the hospital to escort patients and, as a bonus, to paint nails, if anyone chooses. Jewelry also will be available for purchase to create some “bling,” Erlichman said.

“When they walk in the front door, they will find pink everywhere. St. Francis students will escort them where they need to go and there will be lots of pink action going on,” Erlichman said.

There will be information about self-examination and about the Pink Ribbon Fund and its services.

No appointment is necessary and anyone who has insurance should bring that information with them. Most insurance covers mammograms for women 40 and over, including Medicare and Medicaid. But no one will be turned away, insurance or not.

“They’re not going to turn you away if you don’t have insurance,” Erlichman said. “There’s a means for paying for it if you don’t have insurance.”

Erlichman said it’s not necessary to have a primary care physician. The hospital’s radiology department will follow up on all the mammograms and help connect the patient with a doctor if necessary.

There are many reasons women don’t have their screening, Erlichman suggested: It’s uncomfortable, people think they don’t have coverage or they “plain don’t make time.”

Erlichman said she can’t stress enough the importance of an annual mammogram after 40 and “definitely” after 50.

“It doesn’t differentiate. It can affect anybody,” said the two-time breast cancer survivor.

And the bottom line, she said, is self-examinations and mammograms save lives.

“We want people to be aware that early detection saves lives.”

Contact Elizabeth Coyle at ecoyle@bedfordgazette.com; 623-1151, ext. 105.

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