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ND's "Mammography Marathon"

October 19, 2011

HAZEN, N.D. - Coal Country Community Health Center is helping with a unique observation of Breast Cancer Awareness Month: staging a mammography marathon at Sakakawea Medical Center in Hazen.

Chief executive officer Darrold Bertsch says Monday's event offers maximum convenience for busy women, as providers from both medical facilities offer mammograms and free breast exams from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

"By making those services available over a longer period of time, maybe we can get some of those ladies in that are restricted based on their work schedules, or a variety of reasons that they may not be able to come in, to have that screening done."

When caught in its earliest stages, the American Cancer Society says, the five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 90 percent or better. Bertsch says that's why it's so important for women to see their health-care providers on a regular basis.

"A clinician I am not, but as we all know, the earlier we detect any kind of issues that are going on, the more likelihood and the better likelihood there is of resolving that issue in a more timely manner."

Mammograms have been a controversial topic in recent years, but it is generally recommended that women get a baseline exam between ages 35 and 40, and annual mammograms from age 40 on. That can be difficult for those who are struggling financially or without health insurance, but radiologist Lori Wahl at Sakakawea says there are options for assistance.

"We have a program here at the hospital ourselves that, if you meet the income requirements, we do help pay for the exam. Either we can pay it in full or we can pay part of it. Also, Women's Way plays a huge, important part in the role of mammography in helping women pay for these exams, and they help support us also, to get those women in here for that."

Breast cancer is the most often-diagnosed cancer among women in North Dakota, with more than 500 new cases each year.

Women can call to schedule an appointment for Monday's mammography marathon, and walk-ins also will be accepted. More details on Women's Way are online at

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND