By Nina Beach, MN, FNP-C, AOCNP, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner at Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Welch Cancer Center
Cancer screening and preventive care are important aspects of overall health. Screenings look for cancer before a person has symptoms. If caught early, many cancers are much more treatable and potentially curable the sooner they are discovered. Wyoming has a particularly low rate of cancer screening. According to the American Cancer Society Cancer Statistics Center, Wyoming is now ranked 52nd (they count the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) in breast cancer screening with mammography, 51st in colon cancer screening, and 40th in cervical cancer screening.
In other forms of cancer prevention, we are doing better with HPV vaccination for our girls with a ranking of 28th with 54% getting vaccinated, but doing a poor job with our boys – we are ranked 51st. Up to 93% of cervical cancers could be prevented through screening and vaccination.
There are many screening tests available. Research is continually being done to determine if screening actually prolongs life. We know that finding some cancers before they spread or metastasize increases the chance of successful treatment and potential cure. The recommendations for each particular test are weighed out regarding risk and benefit, and some tests are not without risks. Screening tests are not routinely recommended unless the benefit outweighs the risk. Additionally, people are living longer with cancer today than they used to – both because of screening techniques and the fact that treatments continue to improve.
At this time of uncertainty with COVID-19, a volatile election year, and just a time of feeling vulnerable to things out of our control, this is your way to make a difference. Choose to quit smoking, or maybe choose to work on obtaining a healthy weight. In Wyoming, we have a helpful factor in our favor, of low air pollution levels, which helps lower our cancer risk. We can continue to fight cancer by finding cancer sooner. Take control and make the choice for your health – talk to your health care professional about a mammogram, colonoscopy, Pap smear and vaccinations appropriate for you and your family members.
We begin to treat patients who have metastatic cancer (stage IV) at the time of their diagnosis. Sometimes these individuals have said they could not afford to be tested or see a health care provider. Paying for screenings should not be a deterrent.
There are a number of funding options for those in need. The Wyoming Cancer Program reimburses participating providers for some screenings for the uninsured. Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Patient Financial Advocates work with people who need assistance paying for cancer screenings and/or have questions about the services available. Some of the assistance comes from funds raised each October at the Hospital Foundation’s: The Link ~ Partners in Pink run/walk.
To find out more or to see if you qualify for screening funds, contact the Sheridan Memorial Hospital Patient Financial Advocates at 307-675-4620. They can help you understand the available funding options and obtain the care you need.