Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Meditech Clinics' free tests save women's lives in bay area

Pat Underwood, 62, found a cyst in one of her breasts and precancerous cells when she got a free mammogram and Pap smear at a Meditech Medical Center clinic last year. “Now I want everyone to know about this service,” she said.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times\uFEFF

Pat Underwood, 62, found a cyst in one of her breasts and precancerous cells when she got a free mammogram and Pap smear at a Meditech Medical Center clinic last year. “Now I want everyone to know about this service,” she said.

TAMPA — Last year, Pat Underwood was too tired to get another job and too young for Medicare.

So doctor visits took a back seat — until a friend told the retiree about free breast and cervical screenings at a local clinic.

Underwood, now 62, set an appointment last year for her first mammogram in four years.

Today, she says, the free exam proved crucial in her health.

Examiners found a lump in one of her breasts, and later a Pap smear revealed precancerous cells that she wouldn't have known about otherwise.

"I really wanted to know," Underwood said. "Do I have cancer? Now I want everyone to know about this service."

Free mammograms, like the one Underwood received, have caught at least 13 people in Tampa with cancer out of 300 screened in two years, said Estrella Clement, a nurse who works with Meditech Medical Center clinics, which offer the free services.

Many more have likely been diagnosed in the 15 years since the program has existed at other clinics in Florida.

The problem is that many women don't know about the service, Clement said.

Orlando de la Paz, director of Meditech, said the services are part of an effort to establish a preventive medical network.

"We are always trying to help," said de la Paz. The centers offer community health fairs, targeting specific health risks such as diabetes and providing low-cost services to people who are underinsured and uninsured.

Locally, three Meditech offices — two in Tampa, one in Brandon — offer the free mammograms and Pap smears to women ages 50 to 64. Several grants, including the state's Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, pay the expenses.

The early detection program, established in 1994, is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at $3.9 million annually, and Medicaid at $2.7 million annually.

Underwood, who lives in Carrollwood, had worked as a telemarketer selling magazines before retiring. She was nervous about skipping routine care but hoped to skim through without mammograms till age 66, when she will qualify for Medicare.

"I was suffering in silence, not knowing because it cost too much," she said. "If it doesn't say free, I couldn't go."

At the clinic last year, doctors found a lump in her breast, which turned out to be a cyst, and precancerous cells after a Pap smear.

"A person with precancerous cells has a very good chance that it will come back," de la Paz said. It's important to monitor levels with annual exams, he said

Underwood was treated at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. The treatment was also free through the early detection program.

Aside from the state funding, Clement pulls together grant money and negotiates deals for the program with providers such as Bayview Radiology, which analyzes test results without making a profit. Also, the Tampa chapter of Sisters Network Inc., a national organization for African-American breast cancer survivors, funneled grant money it received to local Meditech centers.

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women, according to the National Cancer Institute. Early detection, sometimes even before tumors can be felt, increases chances of successful treatment. In 2005, Florida had 2,663 deaths due to breast cancer. The institute recommends mammograms every one to two years for women 40 and older.

As for Underwood, follow up tests this year came back clear.

All told, she suspects the tests would have cost her thousands of dollars — if she had ever taken them in the first place.

She plans to use the free service for a checkup next year. Meanwhile, knowing she is cancer free gives her peace of mind.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at eparker@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3431.

Fast fACTS

Who's eligible

Women may qualify for a free mammogram, breast examination and Pap smear if they are:

• Ages 50 to 64

• Are underinsured or have no insurance

• Make less than 200 percent of the poverty level (about $19,000 for a single person or $40,000 for a family of four).

• Participating Meditech clinics are at 7208 N Sterling Ave., Tampa; 4714 N Armenia Ave., Suite 100, Tampa; or 1783 S Kings Ave., Brandon. For an appointment, call toll-free, 1-877-933-3060.

Meditech Clinics' free tests save women's lives in bay area 04/30/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 30, 2009 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.