By Nick Tabor, New Era Senior Staff Writer
All adult women should see a doctor once a year for a physical and — for most — a pelvic examination and a clinical breast examination, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports.
But in a county where about 18 percent of residents don’t have health insurance and many more have bare-bones coverage, the medical community knows much of the public can’t follow these guidelines.
It’s the reason Helen Cayce, an advanced registered nurse practitioner, is organizing a women’s health show this week for the 12th year in a row.
“Women just don’t take care of themselves,” Cayce said. “They always take care of their family first.”
Public education about women’s health is apparently reversing this trend, she said. But education alone isn’t enough; women need access to care, and that’s where this event helps.
On Friday and Saturday, staff from Jennie Stuart Medical Center, doctors, nursing students from Hopkinsville Community College and others will set up shop at the James E. Bruce Convention Center. They’ll offer free tests of bone density, cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, body composition and pulmonary function, plus HIV tests, carotid dopplers and vision screenings.
Additionally, 55 women will get full physicals with free mammograms and pelvic examinations, Cayce said. The Christian County Health Department has a grant to fund those.
Every year a long line forms with women waiting for those free services, she said.
Women can get flu shots for $20 and Tdap shots (which guard against tetanus, whooping cough and other illnesses) and Gardasil shots (which guard against human papillomavirus, or HPV) for $5.
The event targets women above 40 years old, but anyone can attend. In past years, a maximum of 2,000 have received care from it, Cayce said.
Altogether, a woman who took advantage of every clinical service would save about $1,400, Cayce said.
“I know it sounds too good to be true, but it’s worked out for 12 years,” she said.
Cayce compared many women’s insurance plans, including Medicare, to car insurance.
“It will only cover so much, and beyond that you’re on your own,” she said.
For those whose incomes are already low or fixed, this often means ignoring preventive health measures. Instead they wait until something goes wrong, Cayce said. The women’s show gives them an alternative.
Many medical organizations will set up booths to sell merchandise and give out information. About 90 percent of visitors usually take advantage of both parts — clinical services and vendors — but others come for the vendors alone, Cayce said.
Vendors’ fees help pay for the free clinical services. The show also has serious backing from three businesses — Jennie Stuart Medical Center, Jennie Stuart’s Wound Healing Center and Cayce’s Pharmacy, which her husband, Mike Cayce runs — and from a long list of lower-tier sponsors.
This year, the vision committee of the women’s show will give a scholarship to a second-year nursing student at HCC. It will also give $2,000 to four health-related nonprofits.
“I’m trying to keep our checking account low,” she said. “Why keep a checking account when you have need?”
Since this event’s inaugural year at St. Luke Free Clinic, the vision committee has asked every year what new service it could add. It has moved from one venue to another to accommodate larger crowds.
Over the years, staff have diagnosed breast cancer, osteoperosis, osteopoenia and diabetes.
“Someone asked me, could you go year and not do anything?” Cayce said. “I said, ‘Probably not.’”