Program Offers Free Mammograms

By Matthew Liptak

Upstate Cancer Center has instituted a new program to make sure women can get screened for breast cancer with as little hassle as possible.

“It’s an initiative from Gov. Cuomo to really get women to have mammograms,” said Elizabeth Fuertes-Binder, 49, who was hired as patient navigator for the program.

The program, called the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers Patient Navigator Project, has the goal of increasing breast cancer screenings by 10 percent over the next five years. The five-year grant Upstate received was about $75,000, Fuertes-Binder said.

Upstate works with two provider — Community Health and FamilyCare Medical Group — to identify those patients who have fallen behind in scheduling a regular mammogram.

“The goal is really to work collaboratively with other organizations, offices in the community to [identify] people who have not done the mammogram or women who are behind on their mammograms,” Fuertes-Binder said. “My job is to reach out to them, and give them some information, and help them.”

Fuertes-Binder will work with women to schedule a free appointment at a convenient location, discuss what to expect during the exam, navigate any insurance requirements, help arrange child or elder care and see that any transportation needs in getting to the appointment are met.

“At Upstate, they’re targeting a diverse population and women who normally wouldn’t go [for the test],” she said.

The new navigator said she is motivated in her work of helping women get checked. She is not a nurse, but has an administrative background in the medical field. She hopes that grant, which began in the fall of 2016. is extended, so she can help more people.

“It’s nice that you can interact with people and make a difference,” she said. “I think people feel it can be complicated. My job is to streamline it and make it pretty simple…so it takes the stress away.”

Before joining Upstate, Fuertes-Binder served as program coordinator for Enable, a local agency that serves individuals with developmental or physical disabilities, and as a director with Menorah Park Group Residences, which provides a variety of independent living options in the Syracuse area.

How to Get Screened

Those interested in scheduling a mammogram through a free Upstate Cancer Center program, should call 315-464-5267 or send an email to