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Knowledge is power: Event educates women on preventive health screenings

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The first Women's Health Event was held at the 10th Medical Center Oct. 17 where women received free cancer screenings and pampering to inform them on how to best take care of themselves.

Those who had a primary care manager at the clinic received free Pap smears, mammograms and bone density screenings.

There were also educational booths on cervical cancer, osteoporosis, blood pressure, podiatry, physical therapy, cholesterol and blood pressure as well as representatives from the American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Angel Network for attendees to consult with.

"We want to let women know that there are such a things as a Pap smear, mammogram and this is how often it needs to be done," said Lt. Col. Antoinette McNeary, Academy chief medical officer and coordinator of the event. "We have models showing them what we do in these exams because if you educate them, it may alleviate them of fears they have about some of these processes."

A children's fair allowed women to attend the event while their children learned about healthy eating and exercise through dieticians, games and goodie bags.

"It's an opportunity for women to get taken care of while their children are with someone and actively engaged in something health-related," McNeary said.

The clinic also holds mammogram socials every month where women can enjoy refreshments, socialize with other women and receive information from a nurse practitioner before they are x-rayed.

"We invite women who are due for a mammogram, usually around 40 years of age who have never had one before," McNeary said. "It's very informal and we encourage it to be social, where there is open communication and the mammography staff explains the procedure."

She said she would like to offer it three times a year and invited over 300 women to the event.

"Education is top priority and if on top of that, if we can actually get women to come in and get them up to date on their Pap smear or mammogram, than that's an extra plus," McNeary said.

Registered Nurse Judi Jackson, who was there to inform women on breast care, said women should form a buddy system and call one another to schedule a mammogram.

"Especially if you're over 40, you have to get that mammogram," Jackson said. "I know it can be scary, especially what you hear about on the news however, knowledge is power and early detection is the big key."

Jackson said men are also candidates for breast cancer.

"Most don't know that men can get it too and there are health care providers who offer mammograms for them also," Jackson said. "For men and women, with the holidays coming up and more family getting together, it's a perfect opportunity to ask family members about their health history with cancer and every other kind of chronic disease."

Forty-year-old Leslie Couch said she found the podiatry table helpful due to recent problems with her feet.

"For my foot problems, I was referred off base and didn't have good results," Couch said. "By talking to the representative today, she was like, 'We'll get you in our clinic,' and she gave me more information than the specialist off base did."

Couch said she thinks the event is important because women often don't take care of themselves like they should.

"We're always the last on the list because we take care of our husband, the children and the house before we take care of ourselves," Couch said. "I think this event is great, and that they should do this every quarter."

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