The American Cancer Society estimates that 268,600 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 in the United States and 41,760 will die from breast cancer. In addition, 13,170 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,250 will die from cervical cancer. The most common screening tool for detecting breast cancer is a mammogram and the Pap test is the most common screening tool for detecting cervical cancer. The earlier cancer is detected, the more likely it can be treated effectively and the greater the chance for survival. Early detection saves lives.
What if a woman doesn’t have health insurance or can’t afford to get screened? Women who don’t have health insurance, or who don’t have sufficient coverage through their health insurance (underinsured) have lower breast and cervical cancer screening rates. This puts them at risk of being diagnosed at a later and more advanced stage of the disease, which can limit treatment options and reduce the chances of survival. Fortunately, there are options available to help improve access to these lifesaving services.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) offers breast and cervical cancer screenings (mammograms and Pap tests) and diagnostic services to women in the United States who are low-income, uninsured and underinsured. The NBCCEDP provides funding to 70 grantees in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, six U.S. territories, and 13 American Indian/Alaska Native tribes or tribal organizations to increase access to timely breast and cervical cancer screening, diagnostic and treatment services.
The NBCCEDP implements a public health approach to help women gain access to these lifesaving screenings. Many women may not get screened for cancer because they live in a rural area far away from the clinic. Or they may not speak English. Many barriers can prevent a woman from getting screened. Public health professionals look for ways to remove these barriers to make it easier for women to make and keep appointments for screening. Examples include bringing a mobile mammography unit to women in their communities or collaborating with community health workers to help with language needs.
For more information, visit the CDC National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program website. If you’re interested in becoming a public health professional, visit the GCU Bachelor of Science in Public Health program webpage, or the Master of Public Health program webpage.
American Cancer Society. (2019). The National Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program: Providing Cancer Screenings to Low-Income Women. Retrieved from https://www.fightcancer.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20-%20Fed%20NBCCEDP%2004.22.19.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/nbccedp/index.htm
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.