Stopping a killer could be as easy as making a free appointment.

Stopping a killer could be as easy as making a free appointment.

The not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC) is urging participation in the Show Me Healthy Women and Family Planning programs as the nation observes National Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

Show Me Healthy Women offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings to women ages 35 to 64 who meet income and insurance guidelines.

NECAC Family Planning offers a variety of affordable screenings and low-cost health examinations to all ages. Some services are free to qualifying clients.

“We encourage women to make an appointment for one of these two vital programs,” said NECAC Deputy Director for Community Health Programs Brenda Fuqua. “The short time it takes to get a checkup could mean the difference between life and death. It sounds dramatic, because it is.”

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that there’s a new breast cancer diagnosis every two minutes and that there’s a death from the disease every 14 minutes. One in eight women will get breast cancer in their lives. About 40,000 Americans, including 400 men, will die from it this year.

“One of the most troubling statistics is that 85 percent of all diagnoses have no family history,” Fuqua said. “That underscores the need for early detection and regular exams. Breast cancer is the leading cause of death for women between 40 and 55.”

All women are at risk for cervical cancer, but those who have had three or more full-term pregnancies, had their first full-term pregnancy before age 17 or have a family history of the disease are the most vulnerable. Other risk factors include smoking and sexual history. Some strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) can also be a cause.

While diagnosis rates have increased, there’s been a steady drop in overall death rates since the 1990s. However, Fuqua warned that families must be vigilant.

“Breast and cervical cancer are diseases that can strike quickly,” she said. “The best medicine is prevention, and one way to ensure that is to schedule a screening.”

The NECAC Family Planning program is directed by Nurse Practitioner Claudia Timbrook under the medical supervision of local volunteer OBGYN physicians. The program receives Title X funding from the Missouri Family Health Council, but is not affiliated with any national organization. NECAC is not an abortion provider.

NECAC operates health clinics in Hannibal, Bowling Green, Warrenton, O’Fallon, Paris, Kirksville, Columbia and Moberly. For more information, or to make an appointment, call (573) 221-3404.