By Deanna Fene
First Coast News
JACKSONVILLE, FL - If you knew you could save your life by taking a simple screening test, would you do it? The answer seems simple, but what if your insurance doesn't cover the cost? Would you still take that test?
Five simple screening tests can detect things like early stage ovarian cancer, heart disease and abdominal aneurysms, but unless you're considered high risk, insurance probably won't pay for it.
One local woman knows how important these tests are. Sheila Norris is a breast cancer survivor, and so was her sister, Jorja. Sheila says, "She got breast cancer at the age of 32." Jorja beat breast cancer and went on living her life. She enjoyed traveling with her husband, her high school sweetheart. They also loved being in dance competitions. But suddenly, 8 years later, at the age of 40, the cancer was back. This time ovarian cancer. The worst part, it was stage four. Sheila says, "It was very much a shock. She had no idea. We had no idea it was coming."
Jorja died within two years. Sheila says her sister didn't realize she was considered high risk for ovarian cancer and never had a screening test, like the transvaginal ultrasound, that could have saved her life. Dr. Stephen Buckley is a St Vincent's GYN Oncologist. Dr. Buckley says, "Ovarian cancer is difficult to diagnose, that's why there's been a real surge in tools for early detection which is what the transvaginal ultrasound is good for."
The Transvaginal Ultrasound cost $200. Doctors say it's just one of several tests worth paying for.
A second test, Expanded Cholesterol Testing. It involves a simple poke of the needle. At 28, Danny Luster didn't think he had to worry about heart disease, but he has a family history and he's a smoker. He took the advanced lipid test which showed his cholesterol was off the charts. Without taking cholesterol lowing medicine, he's at risk for having a major heart attack in his 30's.
Expanded Cholesterol Testing costs around $100.
A third test worth paying for, an EBT Heart Scan. This test is for anyone with chest pains and can help detect coronary heart disease earlier than traditional testing. It's a ten minute test in a doughnut shaped machine and gives doctors a three-dimensional view of the heart. Shands Cardiologist Doctor Norbert Wilke says, "We have many cases of people coming in and they never had any problems with the heart and they come in with chest pains and they get a scan and they have a severe obstruction."
The cost for the EBT Heart Scan, between $300 and $500.
A fourth test worth paying for, a Spiral CT Scan. This test is for smokers and former smokers over the age of 50. It can find lung cancer when it's as small as a grain of rice. The cost for the Spiral CT Scan, between $300 and $500.
The fifth test worth paying for, an Abdominal Aneurysm Scan. About 7 percent of men over 60 have aneurysm disease, but few people realize they're have it or may be at risk.
The cost for an Abdominal Aneurysm Scan, $350.
Sheila Norris is doing what she can to keep from following the same fate as her sister. On this day she's getting a transvaginal ultrasound. Sheila says, "It's certainly no worse then your regular pap smear." This particular scan caught several cysts. While her doctor isn't concerned about it right now, it's something he'll keep an eye on.
Sheila's insurance covers this test, but she says if it didn't, it's well worth paying for. Sheila says, "I don't live in fear of getting ovarian cancer. I live with the knowledge that I'm at risk and that knowledge enables me to take steps that may one day save my life."
First Coast News