Pennsylvania Breast & Cervical Cancer
Early Detection Program
(formerly called the HealthyWoman Program (HWP))
Have you lost income or health insurance because of COVID-19? Are you worried about a lump in your breast or cervical cancer symptoms? You may qualify for free breast and cervical screening and diagnostic services.
The Pennsylvania Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (PA-BCCEDP) is a free breast and cervical cancer early detection program of the Pennsylvania Department of Health. It is funded by the Department of Health and through a grant the Department receives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Free services for those meeting the eligibility standards include:
- Pap and HPV tests; and
- Follow-up diagnostic tests for abnormal screening results.
You may be eligible if you meet these requirements:
- Breast cancer screening and diagnostics – If you are 40 through 64 years old
- Cervical cancer screening and diagnostics – If you are 21 through 64 years old
- If you are under 40 years old, you may be eligible if you have symptoms.
If you are under 40 and your health care provider tells you that you are at high risk for breast cancer, you may be eligible for PA-BCCEDP services. High risk includes genetic mutations, family history and some other factors. Talk to your health care provider for more information.
You may be eligible if you are 65 or older and do not have Medicare Part B.
You must live in Pennsylvania.
You may be eligible for the PA-BCCEDP if your family's gross household income is at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines.
2019 Federal Poverty Income Guidelines at
250 Percent of Poverty
Gross Monthly Income||
|Each additional person||921||11,050|
4. Insurance status
You must be uninsured or underinsured.
Underinsured means you have health insurance, but it does not cover breast or cervical cancer screening, diagnostic services or both, offered by PA-BCCEDP or you are financially unable to pay any required deductible or co-payment.
- If you are enrolled in Medicare Part B or Medicaid, you are not eligible for PA-BCCEDP.
- If you have Medicaid Family Planning Services program only, you are considered to be underinsured and you are eligible for PA-BCCEDP.
- If you are a biological woman you may be eligible.
- If you are a transgender woman (M to F) and have taken or are taking hormones you may be eligible.
- If you are a transgender man (F to M) you may be eligible if you still have breasts, a cervix or both.
What happens if cancer is detected?
If breast or cervical cancer or a precancerous condition is detected through the PA-BCCEDP, you may be eligible for free treatment through the Department of Human Services (DHS) - Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Program (BCCPT). Eligibility for BCCPT is determined by DHS. For specific information visit the
BCCPT website. You can also download and print the BCCPT Brochure.
If you were diagnosed through a PA-BCCEDP healthcare provider, the provider will take care of forwarding a BCCPT application for you.
If you were diagnosed through any other provider, the provider can download the application forms that can be found on the BCCPT website.
Why is the
Pennsylvania Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program important?
- Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women exceeded only by cancer of the lung and bronchus.
- Breast cancer risk increases with age.
- In Pennsylvania, Caucasian women are slightly more likely to develop breast cancer than African-American women. African-American women are more likely to die of this cancer. Asian, Hispanic and Native American women have a lower risk of developing and dying from breast cancer.
- Fifty percent of cervical cancer cases are diagnosed among Pennsylvania women age 50 or over.
- African-American women over age 50 are at a greater risk for cervical cancer than Caucasian women. Cervical cancer is often diagnosed because of missed opportunities for screening, early diagnosis and treatment.
- Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the primary cause of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer occurs most often in Hispanic women; the rate is over twice that in non-Hispanic white women.1
1These data were provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The Department specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.
What should I do to stay healthy?
You should know the look and feel of your breasts and report any changes to your health care provider.
The American Cancer Society recommends these cancer screening guidelines for most adults. Screening tests are used to find cancer before you have any symptoms.
American Cancer Society Breast Cancer Guidelines
- You may start screening as early as age 40, if you want to. It’s a good idea to start talking to your health care provider at age 40 about when you should begin screening.
- At age 45 you should begin having yearly mammograms.
- At age 55, you should have mammograms every other year – though if you want to keep having yearly mammograms you can do so.
- Regular mammograms should continue for as long as you are in good health.
- Breast exams, either from a medical provider or self-exams, are no longer recommended.
- You should be familiar with the benefits, limitations and potential harms linked to breast cancer screening.
- You should know how your breasts normally look and feel and report any breast changes to a health care provider right away.
- These guidelines apply if you have average risk for breast cancer. If you have high risk – because of family history, a breast condition, or another reason – you may need to begin screening earlier or more often. Talk to your medical provider to be sure.
American Cancer Society Cervical Cancer Guidelines
- Cervical cancer testing should start at age 21. If you are under age 21 you should not be tested unless you have symptoms. If you have symptoms, PA-BCCEDP allows those 18 to 20 years old to receive Pap tests.
- If you are between the ages of 21 and 29 you should have a Pap test done every three years. You should not receive an HPV test unless it's needed after an abnormal Pap test result.
- If you are between the ages of 30 and 65, you have three choices. You can choose to have an HPV test alone every five years, a Pap test plus an HPV test every five years (called co-testing), or a Pap test alone every three years. Talk to your health care provider about which is best for you.
- If you are over age 65 and have had regular cervical cancer testing in the past 10 years with normal results, you should not be tested for cervical cancer. Once testing is stopped, it should not be started again. If you have a history of a serious cervical pre-cancer you should continue to be tested for at least 20 years after that diagnosis, even if testing goes past age 65.
- If your uterus and cervix have been removed (a total hysterectomy) for reasons not related to cervical cancer and you have no history of cervical cancer or serious pre-cancer you should not be tested.
- You should NOT be screened every year by any screening method. If you have abnormal screening results you may need a follow-up Pap test in 6 months to a year.
- If you have been vaccinated against HPV you should still follow the screening recommendations for your age group.
- Because of your health history (HIV infection, organ transplant, DES exposure, etc.) – you may need a different screening schedule for cervical cancer. Talk to a health care provider about your health history.
- Sometimes pelvic exams are confused with Pap tests, perhaps because they are usually done at the same time. A pelvic exam is not a cervical screening test. It won't find cancer of the cervix at an early stage. To do that, a Pap test or HPV test is needed.
- You may think you can stop cervical cancer screening once you have stopped having children. This is not true. You should continue to follow these guidelines.
Take control of your health and help reduce your cancer risk:
- Get a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination! The HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV caused cancers. Almost all cervical cancers are caused by HPV. HPV vaccines are safe and very effective. There is no correlation between vaccinations and autism. The recommended age for all males and females is 11-12 years old, and up to 26 years old as a “catch-up” vaccine for females, up to 21 years old for males. Besides cervical cancer, HPV can also cause cancer of the throat, penis, anus and others. Encourage family and friends to get the vaccine.
- Stay away from all forms of tobacco.
- Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
- Get moving with regular physical activity.
- Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all).
- Protect your skin.
- Know yourself, your family history and your risks.
- Get regular check-ups and cancer screening tests.