Breast Cancer Screening

Despite the urging of cancer experts, a recent survey suggests four in 10 American women over 40 still do not get yearly mammograms or perform monthly self breast exams.

In the African American community, the numbers are even smaller but as CBS 2's Paul Moniz reports, a community outreach program is trying to change that, waging a battle in an unusual place.

Ann Stephens is a cancer outreach worker with a program called Essence Of Life, an effort by the American Cancer Society that stresses the importance of early detection through self exam and mammogram.

She gives lessons on staying alive by teaching self breast examination in a Queens beauty salon.

Ann is a former telephone worker who's come out of retirement to reverse the sobering fact that breast cancer kills more black women than any other cancer and black women die more frequently than whites because their cancers aren't detected early enough.

Shattering that fatalistic attitude and a fear of the medical establishment is Ann's mission.

"So many of us say, 'I don't want to know what I have, I don't care what I have and I have to die of something,'" she says.

Ann moves from salon to salon spreading the word. But changing attitudes doesn't happen overnight. Brenda Payne says she dreads her yearly mammogram and she's not alone. "Many women say they went one time and they would never go again because they cried," Brenda says. "It's really painful."

Another barrier for some black women is cost. Those without insurance find the $150 to $250 cost of a mammogram too steep and cannot afford treatment if cancer is found.

However, free or low-cost screenings do exist and city hospitals can provide free treatment.

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