PORTSMOUTH – The Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, offered at both Goodwin Community Health in Somersworth and Families First in Portsmouth, makes OB/GYN physicals, cervical cancer screenings, breast exams and mammograms accessible to uninsured women ages 21-64. You do not need to be a patient; this service is open to all women in the Greater Seacoast area who qualify.
Jeni Beaulieu coordinates the Breast and Cervical Cancer program for Greater Seacoast Community Health, which includes both Families First and Goodwin Community Heath.
“I assist woman in getting enrolled in the BCCP program and navigating and coordinating care between primary care and specialist offices,” said Beaulieu. “Women have lots of questions and fears about breast and cervical screenings, testings and procedures as well as questions and fears about costs and insurance coverage. I’m here to make it less complicated and remove the fear and worry so the path to care is much easier. That’s what I call ‘patient navigation.’ Other things can be a barrier to care for low income women, too. Things like transportation or difficulties in getting multiple appointments scheduled can be overwhelming when you’re scared about something like a breast lump. I try to jump in and remove these obstacles, so the person is more likely to complete the care cycle.”
Beaulieu said the agencies served about 450 women in 2017. Transgender people are eligible to apply for BCCP services.
“The people who are enrolled in BCCP are either uninsured or underinsured and would be unlikely to get or complete diagnostic testing due to cost and other barriers,” said Beaulieu. “We have a growing immigrant population that is in need of services that may not qualify for other traditional routes of assistance that we can care for here.”
One woman, Janice Silver of the Seacoast area, says that the BCCP program likely saved her life.
“I was diagnosed when I was 41,” said Silver. “I am now 58. I have carpal tunnel and some sensation loss in my fingers, so when I felt a lump, I was not sure. I am still undergoing treatment because after winning against this disease a few times, I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in June. Sixteen-years later, I am still dealing with this.”
Silver received numerous treatments, including medications, radiation and chemotherapy. At various points along the way, the margins of her cancer changed, at one-point doctors saw cancer cells but felt they were dead cells. In 2002, she underwent a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Her mom died from cancer.
Being a busy single mother (whose two sons are now grown) Silver said she may have ignored her symptoms longer had she not been aware of the BCCP program. At one point, she served on the Goodwin board.
“I might have adopted a wait and see attitude,” said Silver. “I was busy as a mom. I owned and was running a day care center. Eventually through all this, I decided I needed a real job with benefits, so I now work for Community Partners in direct support services. I found phenomenal doctors and staff and a program that saved my life.”
In a way, Silver still has a wait and see attitude.
“I have not ever asked my doctors for a prognosis,” said Silver. “I decided to continue my life. I have insurance now and that is good. All I had before was a flexible spending plan and the co-pays required would essentially make it not worth working. I love working. I teach daily living skills to people and it is so rewarding. I feel able to go on with my daily life. My sons are grown. They have careers and I know they will be OK. I will ask for a diagnosis when I can no longer get out bed in the morning.”
The one message Silver wants to send to women, is not to wait. She said to women who think help is not there, be assured it is.
For women who meet the income guidelines, services like office visits for breast exams and pap smears, mammograms, breast ultrasounds, surgical consults, aspiration of a breast cyst biopsies and colposcopies may be covered.
If a woman is under the age of 40, the mammogram and ultrasound would only be covered if woman was having a breast issue, the detection of a lump, for example. If cancer is found and a woman needs follow up treatment, she may be eligible to be enrolled in Medicaid to cover the cost.
For more information on the BCCP program or to see if you are eligible, call Jeni at (603) 516-2553.
Families First and Goodwin Community Health are nonprofit health centers that offer a multitude of services and resources at both their Somersworth and Portsmouth sites.
“Patients get whole health treatment and it makes a huge difference,” said Beaulieu. “When you can come get cancer screenings and care in the same facility where you had your baby, get your teeth cleaned, come for behavioral health care and bring your kids for check-ups—that’s really caring for the whole-person (and) whole-family. We are unique, high quality and a safety net for those struggling with access to affordable care.”
Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield New Hampshire President Lisa Guertin said they recognize and support the need for early detection and care of breast cancer.
“Creating greater access to care, including preventative care, is an essential component of what we do every day at Anthem,” said Guertin. “That’s because regular screenings for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer lead to early detection, which saves lives. We’re very proud that our Foundation’s support for Greater Seacoast Community Health allows for expanded access to these critical screenings, helping more people in the community get the care they need.”