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Savvy Senior

Free Health Screenings
By Jim Miller
Sep 4, 2008 - 8:57:26 AM

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Dear Savvy Senior,
Last month I got a free cholesterol and blood pressure screening at my local pharmacy. While I was there, the pharmacist told me that there are many organizations that offer free or low-cost health screenings to help uninsured people in need. Where can I find out about these free screenings?
                Waiting for Medicare
Dear Waiting,
Depending on where you live, there may be a wide range of free or low-cost health screenings available to you. Here’s what you should know.
Screening Search
There are countless organizations, government agencies and even businesses across the country today that provide free or low-cost health screenings. While there’s no one single resource for locating them, your first step should be to call your city, county or state health department and ask if they are planning or know of any upcoming health fairs or free screening programs. You should also check with your local hospitals, pharmacies and senior centers as these are where most free screenings are held at. National and local health associations may also help you identify disease specific screenings. For example, to search for free/low-cost cancer screenings call the American Cancer Society at 800-227-2345, or to look for diabetes screenings, call your ­local American Diabetes Association ­office (call 800-342-2383 to get your number).
In the meantime, here are some national screening programs and services you should know about.
Vascular disease: Throughout September, a program called Legs for Life offers free screenings for peripheral arterial disease, a “hardening of the arteries” condition that indicates an increased risk for heart attack or stroke. Some sites can also test for related diseases like abdominal aortic aneurysm and carotid artery disease. To find a screening site, visit or call 800-488-7284. Another resource that maintains a directory of health care facilities offering free/low-cost vascular screenings is Also see, and to find women-specific cardiovascular screenings in multiple cities.
Skin cancer: The American Academy of Dermatology (888-462-3376, offers free screenings done by hundreds of volunteer dermatologists across the U.S. Free screenings are also offered by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (; 847-956-0900), and the Skin Cancer Foundation (; 800-754-6490).
Breast and cervical cancer: The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (; 800-232-4636) provides low-income, uninsured and underinsured women access to free or low-cost mammograms and Pap tests. Free/low-cost breast cancer screenings are also available at hundreds of hospitals and clinics on National Mammography Day on Oct. 17. To locate a screening site, visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Web site at and click on “Find a Mammography Center Near You.” Once you locate one you’ll need to call to find out if they are offering free screenings, and if so, schedule an appointment.
 Prostate cancer: During national Prostate Cancer Awareness Week, September 14-20, (; 866-477-6788), the Prostate Cancer Educational Council coordinates with hundreds of local sites across the U.S. offering free or low-cost screenings to all men over age 45, or to high-risk men (African Americans or those with a family history of the disease) over 40. The National Prostate Cancer Coalition and the Drive Against Prostate Cancer (; 888-245-9455) also offers free screenings on mobile screening units that tour around the country.
Kidney disease: The National Kidney Foundation (www.keep­; 800-622-9010) offers free screenings in 48 communities across the country for those at ­elevated risk – adults with high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of kidney disease. They also offer free screenings in at least 20 additional cities on World Kidney Day, March 12, 2009.
Memory: If you have concerns about memory loss or have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (866-232-8484; offers free memory screenings across the U.S. on National Memory Screening Day, Nov. 18.
Asthma: In May, the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology ( sponsors free asthma screenings in more than 250 locations nationwide.  
Depression: National Depression Screening Day ( on Oct. 10 offers hundreds of free screenings nationwide for depression, anxiety and other stress disorders.
Savvy Tip: For a more in-depth list of free/low-cost screening programs, including a breakdown of Medicare’s screening services go to
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, ­Norman, OK 73070, or visit Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.


© Copyright 2008 by The Observer News Publications and M&M Printing Company, Inc.

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