by Nina Beach, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner at Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Welch Cancer Center
Cancer screening and preventive care is an important aspect for overall health. Screenings look for cancer before a person has symptoms. Many cancers, if caught early are much more treatable and potentially curable the sooner they are discovered. Wyoming has a particularly low rate of cancer screening. Sadly Wyoming is ranked 49th in breast cancer screening with mammography, 47th in colon cancer screening, 44th in cervical cancer screening and last in HPV vaccination coverage which isn’t screening per se but another form of cancer prevention.
Many people have the philosophy that they don’t need to see their healthcare provider unless they do not feel well. I have often asked patients if they get their oil changed in their vehicles. The majority of folks say “absolutely”. When I ask them why, they say they want to prolong the life of their vehicle or prevent their engine from having problems and to keep their vehicle in good working order. Caring for our own bodies really is the same, we often can prolong our life and keep our organs in good working order if we are more preventive and proactive in our care.
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.
We have seen patients who have metastatic cancer (stage IV) at the time of their diagnosis. They say they could not afford to be tested or see a physician. Paying for screenings should not be a deterrent. There are a number of funding options for those who qualify. The Wyoming Cancer Program reimburses participating providers for some screenings for the uninsured. Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s financial advocates work with people who need assistance paying for cancer screenings and/or have questions about services. Some of the assistance comes from funds raised each October at the hospital Foundation’s: The Link ~ Partners in Pink run/walk.
To set up an appointment for assistance through an SMH Patient Financial Advocate call 307-675-4620.