February marks National Cancer Prevention Month, and The Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BCNEPA) has recently funded programs that will provide cancer screenings and education to at-risk individuals throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.

During 2012, more than $18,000 in Foundation funding was awarded to early detection and treatment initiatives, resulting in more than 500 uninsured residents being screened for colon, breast and/or cervical cancer.

In Carbon County, Blue Mountain Health System (BMHS) expanded its Digital Mammography Screening Program for the un/underinsured with a $9,975 Foundation grant. The funding will help BMHS screen and educate 100 women who were identified by local physicians as having a high risk for breast cancer.

"The Blue Ribbon Foundation's decision to fund our program allows us to extend critical screening services to women who do not have the means or opportunity to get a mammogram any other way," said Joseph Guardini, BMHS vice president of Fund Development and Government Relations. "In the big picture, this means we are able to greatly increase a woman's chance for survival while reducing the long-term care costs that can occur when breast cancer goes untreated."

According to the National Cancer Institute, the annual age-adjusted death rate from breast cancer in Carbon County is higher than both the Pennsylvania and United States averages. Additionally, less than three percent of mammograms provided by BMHS are requested by patients who are uninsured.

In an effort to change these statistics, the BMHS Mammography and Diagnostic Ultrasound Program has provided free mammograms to 600 uninsured women in Carbon County with support from The Blue Ribbon Foundation and other sources since 2002.

Cynthia A. Yevich, executive director of The Blue Ribbon Foundation, credited BMHS with improving the lives of many un/underinsured individuals through these screenings. "Routine screenings are critical to the early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer," she said. "By working with community health organizations such as BMHS, The Blue Ribbon Foundation is making a meaningful investment in the health of northeastern Pennsylvania."

BCNEPA established its private, nonprofit Blue Ribbon Foundation in 2002 to invest in health education and prevention initiatives that produce measurable health improvements and help manage long-term health costs for the residents of northeastern and north central Pennsylvania. During its first decade of service, The Foundation has awarded nearly $10 million in grant funding to 170 nonprofits to help meet the health and wellness needs of more than 186,000 at-risk individuals.