Free clinics to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings are offered by the Ohio University Heritage Community Clinic through their Women’s Health Clinic in an effort to improve the health of women living in the region. These services will be available by appointment on October 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Heritage Community Clinic.
Resources are available for clinical breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests as well as same-day mammography exam connections. In order to provide mammograms, the clinic partners with hospital systems and mobile mammography units. Mobile units visit each site in Southeast Ohio at least twice a year, but often more frequently.
Carole Merckle, deputy director of community health programs and the area’s education center, stressed the importance of having mammograms available to women attending the free clinic so that patients do not have to take a second date in their already busy schedule.
“We’ve found that over the years, due to the work-life balance, everyone is very busy and there aren’t enough hours in the day,” said Merckle.
All of these services are provided free of charge and are funded by grants and support from the OU’s Heritage Community Clinic, Charitable Health Care Network, and the Appalachian Women’s Health Fund. The clinic also works with the Southeast Ohio Breast and Cervical Cancer Project, a program funded by both state and federal government.
Clinics see uninsured, underinsured, and insured women alike, although the majority live with less or no insurance. If someone has insurance, they cover their mammograms, but those who are uninsured or underinsured are not billed for the services. The clinic doesn’t even have a billing system in place.
According to Merckle, every woman who comes to the clinic is assessed to see if she is eligible for BCCP help in the event that she is diagnosed with cancer and has insufficient resources for treatment. With this group, treatment and additional testing can be covered for those who qualify.
The clinic helps patients navigate the often confusing healthcare system by helping them make appointments and ensuring their needs are met. For those who don’t use healthcare often due to a lack of funds, time, or coverage, it can be even more difficult.
“People are losing their homes and everything every day because they are paying so much out of pocket just to save their lives,” Merckle said. “If you connect them to the right resources, it makes all the difference. “
The goal of these clinics, which are held at various locations several times a week, is to educate women about cancer and reduce diagnoses of advanced breast and cervical cancer when the disease is much more difficult to treat.
According to Merckle, having regular screenings, knowing what to look for and knowing the topic can save lives.
“In general, people know their bodies and know if something is wrong or if something has changed,” said Merckle. “And we hope this education article encourages them not to delay things and to go get screenings and services sooner.”
Each year, the clinic serves an average of 300 to 500 women, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, more time and resources have been allocated to vaccination clinics.
Those wishing to make an appointment can call 740-593-2432 or 1-800-844-2654. The clinic is located at 16 W. Green Drive in Athens.