DHEC boosts access to breast, cervical cancer screenings

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCIV) -- The state's Department of Health and Environmental Control said Monday that a $1 million funding increase from the state would help the agency serve thousands more women in need of cancer screenings.

"We are excited to have the opportunity to serve 3,500 more uninsured, low-income women this year thanks to additional funding from the state," said Virginie Daguise, Ph.D. of DHEC's Best Chance Network. "A combination of funding from the state and the federal Centers for Disease Control means we now will be able to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings to more than 10,000 women across our state who would otherwise not have access to these lifesaving services."

The BCN program offers breast and cervical cancer screenings at no cost to women who lack health insurance, meet income guidelines and are between the ages of 47 and 64.

The state health agency says it partners with 250 health care providers across the state to provide the screenings for free.

"There have been so many women helped by the Best Chance Network to assist them in gaining access to Pap smears and mammograms that they otherwise would not have been able to afford," said Sheree Nwanagwo, M.D., a BCN provider partner and physician with CareSouth Carolina in Bennettsville. "There have been abnormalities and even cancers that were detected that would not have been if not for this very important screening network."

According to DHEC, more than 3,500 women each year in South Carolina are diagnosed with breast cancer; 660 will die due to the cancer. Officials said breast cancer is the second most common cause of death in the state and the country.

Since its inception in 1991, BCN has provided breast and cervical cancer screenings to more than 96,000 uninsured, low-income women in the state.