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Overcoming Barriers to Breast Cancer Treatment

The U.S. has made great progress in breast cancer screening, early detection and treatment, lowering the death rate from breast cancer significantly. However, in rural states like Arkansas, many women still struggle to have their needs met due to financial, informational and transportation barriers that restrict their access to screening. This blog provides information about the resources that providers can use to educate patients on cheaper, more convenient ways to get screened.

Due to the pandemic, many clinics in Arkansas have closed or reduced their staffing. Now that the pandemic has slowed down, clinics are playing catch up. People are beginning to feel more comfortable going to the doctor again. Still, clinics have not increased their staffing and are often at maximum capacity. This has caused a backlog of about six months for some appointments, including breast cancer screenings. Women who have not been to the doctor since 2019 are now hoping to schedule appointments for breast exams, but they cannot be seen for at least six months. Luckily, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has developed services focused on convenience and efficiency that allow women more access to breast exams and cancer screenings.

The Arkansas Department of Health Breast Cancer Initiatives

"Your Cancer Resource Guide" is a list of providers and organizations in Arkansas patients can use to meet their basic health care needs, such as cancer screenings or counseling services. However, the guide also provides resources that help patients overcome barriers that restrict their access to health care, such as transportation and finances. Each resource is broken down into sections so readers can easily find the resources that match their needs. Resources include organizations such as the Allyson Whitney Foundation, which helps pay for residual medical bills, rent, health insurance premiums, and more. Or the Mercy Medical Angels, who provide transportation to non-local medical-related treatment centers. Everyone should be able to find a resource in Arkansas that meets their needs. There are even resources specific to the Marshallese and Hispanic populations. Each resource has a link to its website and the best contact information readers can use to reach them. You can access this cancer resource guide here. Providers can also order this resource from ADH by calling 1-833-693-2942.

BreastCare: A Great Local Resource for Breast Cancer Screening and Testing

Another resource designed to meet women's financial needs across Arkansas is ADH's BreastCare Program. The BreastCare program is backed by federal and state funding. It offers free screening and diagnostic services for eligible women in Arkansas. Services include clinical breast exams, Pap tests and mammograms. Diagnostic services include follow-ups on abnormal mammograms, clinical breast exams or Pap test results.

BreastCare’s mission is to increase the rate of early detection of breast cancer and cervical cancer and reduce the morbidity and mortality rates among women in Arkansas. They strive to meet this goal by lowering barriers to screening that result from a lack of information, financial means or access to quality services.

You may be eligible for free cancer screenings and evaluations if you meet the following criteria provided by the Arkansas Department of Health:

  • You live in the state of Arkansas.
  • You are 21-64 years old and need cervical cancer services.
  • You are 40-64 years old and need breast cancer services.
  • You are under 40 years old with breast cancer symptoms.
  • You have a household income at or below 250% of the federal poverty level.
  • You do not have health insurance (including Medicaid or Medicare)
  • You have insurance, need diagnostic tests, and meet the criteria for financial barriers.

If you are eligible for a free cancer screening, you can enroll in BreastCare by contacting a partnered doctor, Local Health Unit or Community Health Center. Click here to find a provider near you to enroll in BreastCare. Once registered, you will receive a BreastCare ID card with complete information on the BreastCare program. A partnered provider will schedule an appointment for your breast exam and Pap test. After this, they will schedule an appointment for you to have a mammogram.

Mobile Mammogram Units

To overcome the transportation barrier that exists in more rural areas of the state, many cancer clinics and organizations have implemented mobile mammography clinics that can travel up to 50 miles outside their home destinations. These mobile clinics allow for more accessibility for women who live in rural counties across the state. So far, Mercy Clinic in Fort Smith, St. Vincent Health System, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), St. Bernard's in Jonesboro and Baxter Regional all have mobile clinics.

One mobile unit, aptly named the MammoVan, regularly travels across the state, offering quick screening mammogram services. UAMS started the MammoVan program to eliminate barriers for women surrounding finance, time, travel and convenience. The MammoVan is staffed with certified mammogram technologists who are ready to provide high-quality screening mammograms. Your results are mailed to you and your primary care physician. If the results show a potential abnormality, you are also referred for follow-up to the appropriate services. Visit their website here for more information on the MammoVan locations and events.

Other Breast Cancer Awareness Resources

There are many ways to support breast cancer research or donate to a local breast cancer fundraiser near you. The Arkansas Cancer Coalition website has a calendar of local events. You can find screening events, breast cancer races, lunch and learns, and women's health education events you can attend during October to show your support.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation also has excellent information about ways to donate and help support breast cancer research. Their "How to Help" tab offers fundraising opportunities for contributing to the cause and even ideas for starting your own fundraising campaigns. From pickleball tournaments to 3-day walks and race for the cure events, you are bound to find some way that you can donate to breast cancer research on their website. They also have a calendar where you can type in your zip code and see local events near you. Check out this excellent resource and show your support for breast cancer research.

Regardless of age, ethnicity or health care needs, every woman can find a breast cancer resource that meets their needs. Women no longer have to wait six months for a simple breast exam or wonder how they will pay for a mammogram appointment. Clinics no longer have to worry about overworking their staff or struggling to see patients despite being at maximum capacity. By using our resources and educating women and providers across the state, we can continue to improve the early detection of breast cancer and decrease the death rate among women diagnosed with breast cancer. By helping women overcome their barriers, we can restore hope to the community and promote a healthier Arkansas.

Media Contacts

Eldrina Easterly

Mobile: 501-553-7607

Chris Hughes

Office: 501-212-8742
Mobile: 501-553-7651

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