Dear Nurse Wanda: Keeping Up the Conversation About Breast Health November 3, 2017

Charleston Cares Guest Blogger, Wanda Lefler, RN, is the Nurse Manager at Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic. Each month, she will offer her insight into patient care, health management – and the art of listening. If you have a medical question for Nurse Wanda, please e-mail your questions to

Dear Nurse Wanda: Where can I find more resources on breast cancer screening in the Lowcountry? Are there any free mammograms near me?

NW: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – but let’s keep the conversation going into November, shall we?

Breast cancer is not a disease confined to one month out of the year. According to The Center of Disease Control and Prevention,

  • One in eight women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States.
  • Nearly 40, 000 women die yearly of breast cancer, with black women being 40% more likely to die than any other racial or ethnic group. This is likely due to disparities in social and economic resources.

Prevention is critical: The earlier the detection, the sooner treatment can occur and the outcome becomes more favorable. So what do we do to prevent breast cancer? Ritually- and throughout the year – women should be performing self exams [How To Do a Self Breast Examination]. Women must stay up to date with their doctors appointments, have their screening mammograms as indicated, and report any lumps and/or nipple discharge as soon as it is observed.

If there is an abnormal finding on your mammogram, it is critical to follow up with additional tests as soon as possible. Make sure your physician’s office has your current contact information, return their contact attempts promptly, ask questions and go to the appointments as recommended.

At Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic, Breast Health Screening is a free, year-round program. Let me walk you through a typical screening scenario at the free clinic, as well as the health care professionals you will encounter:

Routinely, I hear the orders from a physician requesting patients names to be placed on a list to receive a mammogram. Sue Trent, a dedicated volunteer Registered Nurse, schedules most of our patients for their mammograms. Dr. Louis Weinstein reviews the results of all mammograms, while Dr. Rita Kramer serves as an in house consultant with breast health related issues.

Ms. Trent is often the nurse who will then reach out to patients when any additional tests are needed. She explains the report in detail, and what to expect with upcoming tests. Importantly, she will be sure to answer all of your questions during a time that can cause a great deal of stress.

When a woman discovers a lump in her breast and does not have health insurance, I cannot explain the relief in her voice when she is desperately seeking help and is able to find it at our clinic. I often see tears puddling up in the eyes of women when informed that they need to see a breast specialist following their mammograms; the concern of high costs swirling in their heads. When we inform our patients that Dr. Jennifer Beatty from The Breast Place will willing to see them at no cost, the gratitude in their eyes is immeasurable.

Our community can do amazing things for each other when we put our resources and talents together for the good of others. I ponder on just how many in our community are bonded together by supporting the Clinic to serve the health needs of women? From Seabrook Island Club’s Tennis event, “Swing for Pink,” to the generosity and outreach of The Point, and the countless volunteers and donors serving in many capacities at the Clinic to assure care is available to the community. It is truly miraculous.

Barrier Islands Free Medical Clinic provides medical care to eligible patients, just like any family practitioner or internist – but it is free. We serve uninsured adults living at or below 200 % of the Federal poverty level who live or work on Johns, Wadmalaw or James Islands. You can follow us on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

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