September 26, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

Kentucky's Cooperative Extension Service is helping a county homemaker's group in eastern Kentucky be the driving force behind a life-saving health project.

Ann Bradley, Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Science in Letcher County, and county homemakers are scheduling and facilitating the transportation of local women 300 miles round trip several times a year to get free screening for ovarian cancer. It's part of a University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center program that is saving lives.

"We think it's terrific that we can be a part of such a good program at UK," said Bradley. "The doctors and other hospital professionals are very good to work with, and our ladies go home feeling much better about their health."

The screening uses ultrasound to take a "picture" of the ovaries. It only takes about 15 minutes. Since perfection of the technique in 1987, more than 16,000 women have participated in the program.

"If you detect ovarian cancer early before it has spread, then the cure rate here at UK has been more than 90 percent," said John van Nagell, the doctor who pioneered the procedure at UK. "Patients who are in the screening program need to come to Lexington, and it means a whole lot when people can take care of one another and provide transportation."

The Letcher County ladies started traveling to Lexington for screening in 1990. About 180 local women are now involved in the program.

"I started bringing a few ladies to start with, and then it picked up from there and gained speed," said Bradley. "This year I will have a different group coming each month."

Screenings are scheduled several months in advance.

"Ann makes the extra effort to be organized, and when the ladies get here the paper work is filled out and everyone knows what to do," said Tina Payne, clinical research associate for UK's Ovarian Cancer Screening Program.

Ovarian cancer strikes nearly 27,000 women a year nationwide. The disease often shows no symptoms, and ovarian cancers are frequently found in late stages when survival is less likely. That is why regular screenings for women over 50 or those with family histories of breast or ovarian cancer are critically important.

"There's really no excuse not to come because anything you really want to do you will make time for," said Francis Whitaker, a program participant from Letcher County. "And I want to participate and help both myself and the other ladies in the community."

If you are a woman interested in getting a free ovarian cancer screening at UK, you are urged to call 1-800-766-8279, or 859-323-4687 to find out if you qualify.


Ann Bradley, 606-633-2632; Tina Payne, 859-323-4687