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BEACON Senior News

Women, get free help with your health

Aug 31, 2020 01:35PM ● By Jan Weeks

Codi Fisher gives women information on screenings, tests and more at BeaconFest Senior Fair in Montrose.

Montrose program helps women navigate cancer screenings for free

Though childbearing years may be long past, that’s no reason for older women to forget about their sexual health. Breast cancer and cervical cancer can take a toll on women even into their 80s and 90s.

Many seniors don’t want to ignore their health but have no idea where to start to arrange screenings. That’s where Codi Fisher comes in. As a state-employed Community Women’s Health Navigator, Fisher works through Montrose Memorial Hospital to help women of all ages find care. She does this through Targeted Community Outreach—a grant-funded program located in Montrose and run through Colorado’s Cancer Prevention and Early Detection program.

“The goal of the program is to increase breast and cervical cancer screenings among women in our community. I also work one on one with women to help them get screened,” Fisher said.

Fisher guides clients through the process at no cost to them. She can even schedule appointments and arrange for transportation through All Points Transit.

Because government guidelines on screenings are subject to change, Fisher prefers that clients follow their doctors’ recommendations. Family history and genetics also play important roles in deciding if screenings are essential.

Life-saving tests

Women sometimes shy away from getting mammograms because of moments of discomfort. Still, a few minutes of pain is no reason to shun this life-saving test. Mammograms can detect lumps too small to be felt in a self-exam as well as ductal cancer, which may spread if not treated. Typically, a doctor orders diagnostic screenings when a lump is found, there’s pain in the breast, discharge from the nipple, thickening of breast skin or changes in breast size or shape.

Pap smears catch cervical cancer in 80 percent of cases. They should occur as recommended by a doctor unless a hysterectomy has been performed. Though not as painful as a mammogram, Pap smears can be a little embarrassing as the cervix is swabbed. The swab is then tested for abnormal cells.

Although ultrasounds don’t detect cancer, they can show unusual growths that may be cancerous.

While Medicare will pay for a yearly mammogram and a Pap smear every three years, it usually won’t pay for an ultrasound. However, Fisher can refer clients to a variety of programs and local resources that provide financial aid.

Raising awareness

Fisher and her staff raise awareness by attending community events where women in their target age range might be. However, COVID-19 has limited these occasions.

Social and cultural barriers can also be a challenge in small rural communities, where residents are used to being independent. Fisher said sometimes people are skeptical of programs designed to help them.

“This program is our tax dollars at work,” she said. “It’s a way to give back to people who live here.”

To contact Fisher, email [email protected] or call 252-2893 and leave a message