Facilitate access to breast cancer care
Facilitate access to breast cancer care
You know the famous air travel analogy of putting on your oxygen mask first so you can help others safely? For many women, this is also true when it comes to keeping up with preventative breast care. THE mammography it is the most effective tool for detecting breast cancer in its early stages. However, accessing this potentially life-saving test is difficult for many women.
Amanda Boreen, RN, a nurse consultant at Marshfield Clinic Health System in Weston, Wisconsin, she sees it too often. “If we don’t take care of ourselves as women, how can we take care of others or do what we want with our lives?” he said. “It is very important that health systems offer breast care options that fit women’s lifestyles and that care becomes more accessible and affordable.”
There are many reasons women may be late when it comes to getting their annual mammograms and physical exams. Possible barriers include:
- The cost
- Lack of health insurance
- Lack of flexible working or situations related to the provision of care
- Lack of access to transportation
- Living in a community that is underserved, has no medical services, or in a rural community
- Fear of being exposed to covid-19
Fortunately, a growing number of health care systems are seeking solutions to these and other barriers when designing breast care programs.
Satellite clinics improve access
Many breast care programs now have satellite clinics so women can get mammograms close to home. An example is the Marshfield Clinic Breast Care Program, a service of Marshfield Clinic Health System. The health system operates 11 hospitals and more than 50 clinics in 25 counties in northern Wisconsin and Michigan.
Marshfield Clinic facilities include three full-service breast care centers: one breast care center on its main campus in Marshfield, another 45 miles away in Wausau, and another 80 miles away in Eau Claire. The aim is to increase access to good quality breast care in more rural service areas.
St. Luke’s University Health Network in eastern Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley also provides extensive breast care services through its 12 hospitals and a regional breast care center. “We use a structure with distribution center so women have convenient access to exams in many locations in our network,” she said Joseph P. Russo, MD a breast radiologist and head of women’s imaging at St. Luke’s University Health Network. “Then, if more care is needed, we consolidate and coordinate diagnostic services at our regional breast care center.”
St. Luke’s University offers early morning mammography appointments on a daily basis, as well as late night appointments once a week. Other locations also offer mammograms on weekends, same day, or even on a walk-in basis.
Mobile mammograms that offer assistance wherever you are
Sometimes simply increasing the hours isn’t enough. Mobile mammography removes transportation barriers to providing breastfeeding care to women in their homes or workplaces. These mobile units are typically large buses adapted to include one or two mammography facilities with waiting areas and changing rooms.
Mobile mammography services vary. Some providers only offer conventional mammograms. Others may provide diagnostic mammograms; digital breast tomosynthesis, also known as three-dimensional mammograms; breast exams; and even primary care appointments.
Marshfield Clinic’s mobile mammography unit attends health trade shows hosted by major area employers when benefits are renewed, Amanda said. “They’re also very busy visiting some of the smaller Marshfield Clinic centers and tribal clinics in our Native American neighbors.”
Relief from financial worries
When it comes to mammograms, most women pay for nothing out of pocket. That’s because the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, requires private health insurance companies to cover preventive health care for women, including free mammograms, without copays, coinsurance or deductibles. Medicare it also covers 100% of mammograms. Medicaid coverage of cancer screenings varies from state to state and is available in 40 states that have accepted the Medicaid expansion.
But what happens when women need more tests? Kristen A. Zarfos, MD, FACS, a breast surgeon at Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, and a women’s health board member at HealthyWomen, says women sometimes refuse needed care due to financial issues. “I’ve known women who were denied diagnostic mammograms or follow-up breast biopsies because they didn’t have health insurance.” “They say even if they get worrying results, they can’t pay for more treatment.”
Luckily, some states laws have been passed requiring insurance companies to cover diagnostic imaging of the breast after an abnormal mammogram. One of new laws recently enacted in Connecticut. “It’s a relief because not having follow-up testing means we have less chance of detecting cancer in its early stages, when it can be best treated,” said Dr. Zarfos.
Biopsies that deliver same-day results provide peace of mind
One of the most important improvements in breast cancer testing has been the effort to offer breast biopsies that provide results the same day after an abnormal mammogram. “Once the results are in, the vast majority of women prefer to have more tests done immediately, so we always try to complete the work the same day, including a biopsy, so they can have their results from the pathology department within 24 hours. . at 48 hours,” said Dr. Russo. “That’s why we’ve been providing same-day biopsies to St. Luke’s Health Network for 15 years. We were among the first to implement it because it’s so important.”
According to Dr. Zarfos, St. Francis in Hartford is also trying to achieve this. “Usually you will have an appointment with a breast surgeon or physician assistant the same day as an abnormal mammogram, and we will do our best to perform a biopsy and deliver the results the same day,” she said. “This brings so much peace of mind to women who come from all over the state for this service.”
There are resources if you need help getting a mammogram
If you’re over 40 and something is preventing you from getting a mammogram, there are resources that can help.
He National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (Early detection program for cervical and breast cancer) (NBCCEDP) provides access to breast and cervical cancer screening for low-income individuals who lack insurance or access to services.
Amanda also suggests calling the health care system closest to you to ask about mammography resources, noting that your insurance company can also provide counseling services that can be helpful in getting treatment. Finally, don’t underestimate the value of a simple Internet search with terms like “mobile mammograms nearby.”
This resource has been prepared with support from Merck.