The ABC's of breast cancer: A WAFF 48 News Special Report

Women are told to get a screening mammogram by age 40 and yearly mammograms yearly thereafter. But what if you are uninsured or under insured? Is there help available to women forced to choose between a mammogram and a meal? The answer is YES, as long as the money holds out.

As a breast cancer survivor and advocate, I've been down the road from mammogram to mastectomies (and a whole lot more). So has Paula Eakins. She's a former Oakwood University Professor of Nutrition, so more than most-she knows how to achieve and maintain good health.

That knowledge base and inner desire to help other people become healthier lead Eakins away from the classroom and out on the road. She left her university job with insurance benefits to lecture around the country on food and nutrition. She and her husband now make under $25,000 a year. Private insurance payments were too expensive. They trusted they would remain healthy. Then, Paula found a lump in her breast. It was breast cancer.

"No one should have to face cancer alone, whether they have money or no money, if she has cancer, she needs to be taken care of," said Paula.

Paula was taken care of once she learned about the ABC's of Breast Cancer. Paula qualified for the Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.

"It paid for my surgery of course it paid for all the time of the mammograms; it also paid for my prosthesis. It paid for my glasses, it paid for all the testing that had to be done, the CAT scans, PET scans, bone scans, MRI. It was going to pay for reconstruction if I needed or wanted it," she said.

The ABCC Program is the answer for so many women who fall through the cracks; those women who are the working poor and those in between jobs in this tough economy.

Carol Ann Williams, who is the ABCC Case Manager at Central North Alabama Health Services, says the program is a mandate from the Centers for Disease Control and is considered temporary Medicaid. She says it pays for screening, diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds and if cancer is found, it pays for surgeries and reconstruction, chemotherapy, radiation and special mastectomy bras, afterward.

Ironically, this program has paid for more than 100,000 women to be screen and when needed treated for breast cancer, but it ran out of money this year between February and August.

The money is in the fund now, but for how long, is anyone's guess. The federal and state governments underwrite exams for women between the ages of 50 and 64.

Charitable contributions from the sale of pink garbage cans through Joy to Life in Central and South Alabama and donations from Komen for the Cure pay for screening for women ages 40 to 50 and in special cases, women under 40. If a doctor finds cancer, it takes care of everything as it did for Paula.

Today, Paula is cancer-free and celebrating her five year mark. She is happy and grateful that she got the life-saving care she needed when she needed it-despite having no insurance.

For qualified women, the ABCC Program also pays for annual pap smears. To learn more about the Alabama Breast and Cervical Cancer Program click here.

You can also visit the Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Fund and the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run, which helps to fund the purchase of cutting edge technology for the early diagnosis of breast cancer at the Huntsville Hospital Breast Center.

Copyright 2011 WAFF. All rights reserved.