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Breast and Cervical Health Check

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Amber Guy – 25 years old
Amber Guy

Born and raised in a fishing family in Petersburg, 25-year-old Amber Guy has weathered her share of Southeast Alaska storms. By the time she was 15, she was putting in long hours on the deck of a fishing boat, enduring cold and rain. “It’s what you do when you grow up in Petersburg,” she says.

One of the first storms in Amber’s personal life came when she was in college in Washington state and her Pap test was found to be irregular. Like many students, Amber was on a tight budget and had no health insurance to cover costs of follow-up testing. She didn’t do anything right away.

Back in Petersburg over the summer break, Amber returned to fishing. A friend, working in Juneau mentioned Alaska’s breast and cervical cancer early detection program, known as “Breast & Cervical Health Check”. Amber realized she might qualify for benefits. “I would have gotten help sooner if I had known that I could,” she said.

Amber traveled to Juneau where she and her friend called the Juneau Public Health Center to learn more about the early detection program. Amber qualified for the free services and she was quickly enrolled into the screening program.

After undergoing cervical cancer screening in Juneau, Amber returned to Petersburg where she learned, three weeks later, that the biopsy indicated severe abnormal growth known as dysplasia. Because she was enrolled in the Breast and Cervical Health Check program, Amber qualified for cancer treatment through Alaska’s Medicaid program. Amber underwent surgery in Juneau but says it wasn’t until later that she realized how serious her illness was.

“I didn’t really realize that I had cancer – even after my surgery. When I learned how serious my situation was, I was angry. I should have gotten a follow-up right away,” she says.

It’s a question health care providers grapple with regularly: Who’s responsible for making sure a patient received the right treatment at the right time? Most experts agree that the responsibility needs to be shared among doctors, nurses, insurers, hospitals, cancer centers, and patients themselves.

Amber, who’s facing a few years of cervical cancer follow-up screenings realized it was time to take a greater role in planning for her health care. To take advantage of a larger job market, she left her home town and moved to Juneau, where she works today with the federal Transportation Security Administration, providing security at the Juneau airport. The job offers medical coverage and Amber says she hasn’t missed a single checkup.

“I don’t know what I would have done or what would have happened if not for the treatment received through the (Health Check) program,” she says.

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