The American Cancer Institute recommends, women age 40 and older should have mammograms every 1 to 2 years while those with a history of breast cancer should talk with their doctor to determine the frequency because the life they save may be their own.

A mammogram is an x-ray picture of the breast. Mammograms can be used to check for breast cancer in women who have no signs or symptoms of the disease. This type of mammogram is called a screening mammogram. Screening mammograms usually involve two x-ray pictures, or images, of each breast. The x-ray images make it possible to detect tumors that cannot be felt. Screening mammograms can also find microcalcifications  which are tiny deposits of calcium which sometimes indicate the presence of breast cancer.

Mammograms can also be used to check for breast cancer after a lump or other sign or symptom of the disease has been found. This type of mammogram is called a diagnostic mammogram. Besides a lump, signs of breast cancer can include breast pain, thickening of the skin of the breast, nipple discharge, or a change in breast size or shape; however, these signs may also be signs of benign conditions. A diagnostic mammogram can also be used to evaluate changes found during a screening mammogram or to view breast tissue when it is difficult to obtain a screening mammogram because of special circumstances, such as the presence of breast implants, according to the American Cancer Institute.

The “Gift of Life’s” Breast Cancer Program provides free mammograms and clinical breast exams with access to follow-up treatment for medically underserved Southeast Texas women, as well as extensive educational outreach  which centers on the lifesaving benefits of early cancer detection.

The “Gift of Life” Breast Cancer Program annually makes available 2,000 free mammograms and clinical breast exams for medically underserved women and extensive educational programming on breast health for young adult women throughout the region.

During the 18 years of saving Lives, the “Gift of Life” has made available more than 20,000 free mammograms and helped extend the lives of more than 150 women, who were diagnosed with breast cancer through the screenings and has helped provid access to necessary treatment.

Already this year, six clients have been diagnosed with breast cancer and are being navigated into treatment.

Also, through its Sidney “Chief” Dauphin Educational Outreach Program, the organization has distributed information on prevention and awareness and conducted presentations which annually reaches thousands of individuals.

More than 350 breast cancer survivors and other volunteers participate in “Gift of Life” breast cancer awareness activities each year.

The “Gift of Life” is currently accepting free mammogram applications for medically underserved women in Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange. To qualify, women must have a limited income and not have private insurance,  medicaid or medicare. In addition, women must be at least 40 years old with a few exceptions. Women who as young as 30 years old may be eligible if there is a history of breast cancer in their family such as a mother, sister or grandmother. A woman may receive her first mammogram at age 35 but not eligble again until age 40.

For more information or for more qualification information  call the program at (409) 860-3369 or toll-free at (877) 720-GIFT (4438).