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Survivor cancer-free thanks to voucher program

11:03 AM, Jul 11, 2012   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida --  Breast cancer has a 98 percent cure rate if it's caught early. That's hard to do when you can't afford a mammogram.

With the help of donations from the community and some help from area athletes, a Bay area mammography voucher program aims to strike out breast cancer.

Janel Smith works with kids in Largo. Her positive attitude and energy are infectious, so it's no surprise when she was diagnosed a year ago with breast cancer, she didn't let it get the best of her. But with a part-time job, Janel knew she needed to find resources for help.

"[I] felt a lump and knew I didn't have insurance, so I got the phone book and I called every place I could and said, 'I found a lump in my breast and I don't have health insurance, what can you do to help me?'" Janel said.

Through a Mammography Voucher Program, doctors at Morton Plant Mease not only diagnosed Janel, they treated her too. The program is funded through grants and donations.

One of its biggest fundraising events is Pitch for Pink, a full night on the field and paying tribute to surviving.

"There's no question it's bad enough, having the burden of the cancer. I mean, everybody comes to see us because of cancer," said Medical Director of Morton Plant Mease's Comprehensive Breast Care Center Dr. Peter Blumencranz. 

He added, "We know it doesn't matter if it's early stage or later, they're wired. They're nervous [and] rightfully so. I mean, it's a threat to your mortality. So if you can take the financial burden away, it's really a wonderful thing to do."

Janel knows the best way to survive is to be proactive and watch your body. She and her friends take part in Buddy Check 10.

"As you age, it changes. Know it on a regular basis. Do the self checks. Tell your friends to do the self checks."

Janel adds, "If there is any doubt in your mind, ask for help, get the phone book out, get on the internet, ask for help. A closed mouth never gets fed, so I keep mine open, constantly."

"Cancer survivors are a powerful group. They've been through a tough battle and they've come out successfully," Dr. Blumencranz said.

Janel is ready to to smile and celebrate at Pitch for Pink. She says her kids are helping her prep to throw the first pitch.

"I've got baseball players in my group. Yeah, we're practicing," Janel said.

SEE ALSO: Breast Cancer Screening Services by County (PDF)

If you are uninsured and need a mammogram, there are several community resources. In addition to the Mammography Voucher Program at Morton Plant Mease, the Pinellas County Health Department's Breast and Cervical Screening Program may be able to help, if you meet these criteria:

  • Low-income
  • No health insurance
  • Between the ages of 50 and 64
  • Resident of Pinellas

If the person qualifies, she can call  727-824-6917 to get a free mammogram. Calling 2-1-1 Tampa Bay Cares from any phone in Pinellas may also be a source of community resources.

Additional Mammogram Resources:

Free screenings and treatment for those with little to no insurance.

Komen Suncoast 1-877-506-6927

Here are the screening programs they currently fund:

  • Mammography Voucher Program ( Pinellas ) 727-820-4117
  • Mammography Voucher Program ( Manatee ) 941-748-0747
  • Moffitt Cancer Center ( Hillsborough ) 813-745-6769
  • St. Joseph's Women's Hospital ( Hillsborough) 813-356-7117
  • Sarasota Memorial Hospital ( Sarasota ) 941-917-2636
  • We Care of Polk ( Polk ) 863-646-3436
  • Health Woman Today ( Pasco ) 727-861-5661 ext 1016

Libby Hendren, 10 News

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