In collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Health, Trenton Health Team (THT) provides free comprehensive screening services for breast, cervical, prostate and colorectal cancer as part of the New Jersey Cancer Education and Early Detection (NJCEED) program. Since the fall of 2018, the organization has served about 2,000 uninsured or under-insured patients living in the Mercer County area. As the demand for these important health screenings rise, THT continues to meet the medical needs of the underserved in the community.

On Saturday, March 27th from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., THT is providing free mammogram screenings to women between the ages of 40 and 64 years old. By appointment only, the screenings will take place at 218 North Broad Street in Trenton. Interested patients in need of this service should call 609-888-6189 to register.

“The population we serve, they are vulnerable; they don’t have easy access, and it’s really either because of their insurance status or their documentation status that they are left in the dark,” said Shelby Guzman, Nurse Case Manager for NJCEED at THT. “So, for my team, we definitely advocate that they deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect as someone who has insurance.”

All individuals served through NJCEED fall below the 250 percent federal poverty line. When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, unemployment rates skyrocketed and more and more individuals were falling below this line.

Shelby Guzman, Nurse Case Manager for NJCEED at Trenton Health Team (THT) | Photo provided by Trenton Health Team (THT)

Adding to the predicament, THT went through a period of time where all screenings were at a halt due to the shift in focus onto COVID-19. This global, health focus shift decreased the amount of screenings offered in the area. However, adamant on screening the underserved community regularly, the organization adjusted to the times to begin the health checks once more.

“Cancer doesn’t stop, even through a pandemic,” said Guzman. “Though we temporarily halted during that time, we really took an initiative of figuring out what is the best way for us to restart this in a safe way and still provide these services.”

Before COVID-19, THT primarily used the 218 North Broad Street location for the screening events, along with a handful of partner sites through the help of Capital Health and the Henry J. Austin Health Center. With these sites heavily preoccupied with COVID-19 cases, THT called on a different group in the community for help.

“Last fall, we actually partnered with some faith-based organizations,” said Guzman. “We were bringing the [mammogram screening] van in the Galilee Baptist Church and Trinity [Episcopal] Cathedral, where we were able to bring the mammogram screenings to those sites. That’s definitely the approach that we’re using now in the warmer months.”

THT typically rents the screening van once a month to provide mammograms at different locations in the county. This traveling van helps the organization reach a wider range of community members. When the van is not in use, THT is often providing screening events through Capital Health twice a month and at other partnered locations one or two more times. That makes for four to five cancer screening events per month.

The main purpose of these cancer screenings are to detect this illness early on and prevent further health problems down the line. With that mindset, THT maintains contact with many of their patients to ensure they are receiving continuous quality care after their initial screenings.

“They’re like family,” said Guzman. “That’s kind of how we run the program, making sure that they’re seen, not only for these cancer screenings, but if they need assistance being referred to other resources, even food pantries; we connect them to a primary care setting. We try to make sure that the services they receive are comprehensive.”

THT is in the process of developing an online system for cancer screening registration. For now, THT asks that you call 609-888-6189 to register or for questions regarding qualification. 

For residents outside of Mercer County, click HERE to find your NJCEED program.