Chaves County Cancer Fund Inc. Vice President Julie Morrow holds up a pink lightbulb being sold for the “Enlighten Roswell” fundraising project, which will provide free mammograms to those in need. (Emily Russo Miller Photos)
Emily Russo Miller
Record Staff Writer
Front porches are usually aglow in orange light in October for Halloween, but this year, many more will likely be illuminated pink.
ENMMC and Xcel Energy are asking residents to purchase pink compact fluorescent light bulbs that are available in select places across town, and replace their porch lights for the month of October — National Breast Cancer Awareness Month — to raise awareness of the disease, which is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among New Mexico women, according to the New Mexico Department of Health.
“This program is important to show the community support, to raise breast cancer awareness and to make sure that people in the community are no longer in the dark about the need for mammograms and screenings for breast cancer,” ENMMC Marketing [auth] Director Brooke Linthicum said in an interview Wednesday.
The fundraiser is intended to benefit the Chaves County Cancer Fund’s Free Mammograms Fund, which will provide free mammograms for those who cannot afford them. Mammograms on average cost $270 nationally, according to several medical cost comparison groups.
CCCF Vice President Julie Morrow says that price tag is too high, especially since 30 percent of New Mexicans are uninsured, and others are not eligible for the free breast and cervical screening and diagnostic services provided by the NMDOH because they do not meet the very specific guidelines. Those guidelines require women to be below 250 percent of poverty for income level, and they cannot have insurance or must have a high deductible or co-pay.
“A lot of women don’t get mammograms, and a big piece of that is financial,” said Morrow, who is also a NMDOH nurse. “This fund is for those people who don’t have financial means or don’t quality for the New Mexico Department of Health Breast and Cervical Cancer Detection and Screening Program.”
CCCF is a nonprofit organization, established in 2006, that usually provides financial and emotional support to those who have already been diagnosed with cancer by helping cover medical and transportation costs as well as electric, gas and food bills. But Morrow said preventative care for breast cancer is extremely important.
NMDOH data indicates that over 50 percent of all breast cancers in New Mexico are detected in early stages, and that the survival rate among women diagnosed with early stage cancer from 1999 to 2003 was 98 percent. But when breast cancer is detected at a regional stage, the survival rate fell to 81 percent; at a distant stage, 25 percent.
That’s one reason why NMDOH recommends women undergoing a screening mammogram every one or two years beginning at age 40.
“We really do want women to think about their breast health, and that means doing their self exams, going to their medical appointments and getting their mammograms,” Morrow said.
Breast cancer accounts for one-third of all cancer cases in women, and less than 20 percent of the cancer deaths, according to NMDOH. Chaves County had the eighth lowest fatality rate out of 33 counties in the state from 2001-2005 with 15.6 female breast cancer deaths per 100,000 people. New Mexico had 22.1 deaths per 100,000, while nationally, there was 25 deaths per 100,000 people.
Linthicum said ENMMC administered some 4,600 to 5,000 mammograms last year, and that she hopes more will get them this year. She noted ENMMC sponsored “Enlighten Roswell” after learning the Susan G. Komen Foundation found that only 50 percent of women over the age of 40 receive a yearly mammogram.
The pink CFL bulbs, which Xcel Energy specially ordered and packaged to read “Don’t be in the dark about breast cancer,” are now available in Roswell at Senior Circle, Roswell Chamber of Commerce and the ENMMC gift shop. There is a suggested donation of $5 per bulb.
To make a donation to the Chaves County Cancer Fund Inc., call 637-9550, or mail it to P.O. Box 193, Roswell, NM 88202.