"We need to argue with our doctors and HMOs when they say that we don't need a yearly mammogram," Sanchez said.
The Garden Grove Democrat was the featured speaker at a presentation to promote breast cancer self-examination, screening and early detection. About 40 women attended the program at the H. Louis Lake Senior Center, presented by the Orange County Breast Cancer Partnership and other advocates.
"As we get older, the risk of developing breast cancer increases," said Pat Swan, Orange County Breast Cancer Partnership senior task force coordinator and vice chairwoman.
Women of all ages are at risk of developing breast cancer, but nearly 80% of the disease occurs in those older than 50. In 1996, the year for which the latest statistics are available, 345 Orange County women died of the disease, and of those, 279 were older than 50.
Older women especially fail to get annual mammograms, often because they can't afford them, Swan said.
But Swan stressed that Medicare now pays for yearly mammograms for women older than 65. Through the state's Breast Cancer Early Detection Program, and local programs in Orange County, free mammograms and breast cancer screenings are available for women who are underinsured or uninsured.
Swan said there is a critical need for state money to pay for more services and treatment.
Sanchez spoke about the importance of early cancer detection. Her mother-in-law died of ovarian cancer at 57. Sanchez's mother, Maria Macias, 60, also had a scare when she discovered a lump on her breast, which later turned out to be noncancerous.
"Although my mother-in-law had ovarian cancer, she has the same story that many women with breast cancer today have--they found it too late," Sanchez said.
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