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City expands free mammograms for uninsured women

The city will provide as many as 5,000 uninsured women with free mammograms next year in an effort to cut down on the number of low-income women who haven’t had a recent breast cancer screening.

The city Department of Public Health is partnering with the Cook County Health and Hospitals System to provide the tests, which will be paid for by the city at a cost of $635,000, according to a Department of Public Health release.

The mammograms will be available at three Cook County hospital sites: Fantus Health Center, Provident Hospital and the Dr. Jorge Prieto Family Health Center, according to the department.

The Department of Public Health already pays $100,000 yearly to support free mammograms at four sites run by Mercy Hospital and Health Center and at the Roseland Community Hospital. This expansion more than doubles the 2,100 mammograms the city provides to low-income women each year, according to the release.

Uninsured women who receive the mammograms will not receive a bill, said Dr. Julie Morita, Department of Public Health commissioner.

Cook County Health and Hospitals System CEO Dr. Jay Shannon said in a statement the city investment would help the county expand capacity, something it is already working on by hiring more staff and investing in new medical technology.

The county health system expects to provide 20,000 mammograms countywide in 2016, up from the 13,000 it provides annually, according to the statement.

According to a 2014 Department of Public Health survey, 8,625 uninsured women in Chicago who are the recommended age for mammograms have not had a screening in the past two years.

“We know that early detection really can improve the outcome,” Morita said. “We want all people to have access to services, to be able to have breast cancer detected earlier.”