New mammogram programme targets 6,000 for screenings

Photo above: Madam Poh Lay Lee, 63, travelled on a "mammoferry" bus from Bukit Batok to Tampines to get screened for the first time.

SINGAPORE - Madam Poh Lay Lee has never gone for a mammogram screening because she had heard that it was painful.

There was also no one to encourage the 63-year-old to go for regular tests, as she lives alone.

On Sunday, however, she travelled on a "mammoferry" bus from Bukit Batok to Tampines to get screened for the first time.

The mammoferry is a new shuttle bus service that can be provided on request by various grassroots organisations to take women like Madam Poh to polyclinics for screenings.

She is one of 6,000 women targeted by a new two-year programme launched on Sunday by the Breast Cancer Foundation (BCF) as part of its 15th anniversary line-up of events, in partnership with the Health Promotion Board (HPB).

Half of these women will be going for their first screening, while the other 3,000 would have been screened before, and are due for another mammogram.

The programme, called the BCF Encouragement for Active Mammograms (Beam15), aims to encourage women aged 50 and above from the low-income group to go for regular cancer screening.

It follows a finding in the National Health Survey 2010 that women from lower-income households are less likely to go for cancer screening, with cost often cited as a deterrent.

"Many of the low-income group women tend to not look after themselves; all the money they have is spent on food and taking care of the family," said Mrs Noor Quek, president of the BCF, which is spending $300,000 on the programme.

"When they get older and illness starts setting in, they may not also have the financial means."

Minister of State for Health and Manpower, Dr Amy Khor, who was guest of honour at the launch, also announced that the HPB will expand the coverage of its mobile screening centre - the Mammobus - to more locations, making it accessible and convenient.

The two organisations will work closely to identify and send invitations to these women starting next month.

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