Idaho ranks last in the nation for women getting screened for breast cancer.
The news comes from the Department of Health and Welfare, and a report shows that more than one-third of women over 40 have not had a mammogram in the last two years.
The reason could be the state’s high number of rural areas, making access more difficult, or an issue of cost. But southeastern Idaho has a lot of solutions to this issue, as well, said Southeastern District Health Department Director Maggie Mann.
Women who are worried about cost should see if they qualify for the Women’s Health Check program. It offers free mammograms and Pap tests, and it can apply to a broad range of people, Mann said. “Many people when they think, especially about mammography, they think, ‘Well, that’s a really expensive test, and I can’t afford that right now.’ Well, I really encourage people to see if they qualify for that program,” she said.
The program hooks women up with doctors in their hometowns, cutting down on transportation costs. If a woman can’t get to a doctor, one can always come to her. Portneuf Medical Center’s Mobile Mammography Unit is one way to reach rural areas or women who do not have access to a qualified physician.
Still, concerns do not end with location, Mann said.
“Maybe they have concerns that if they do have a lower income and if breast cancer is found, then what?” she said.
Portneuf Medical Center oncologist Dr. David Ririe said that early detection will save money. The earlier cancer is detected, the more easily it is treated, and the less that treatment costs, he said.
“By screening, it not only improves a woman’s survival from breast cancer but often will lead to less invasive procedures,” Ririe said.
Despite some controversy over how often women should get exams, it is better to err on the side of caution and just get checked out, Ririe said.
“And then become educated about what the recommendations are and know what the risk factors for breast cancer are. So know your body and know a little bit about health,” he said.
Ririe recommends that women age 50 and older get a mammogram every year. Idaho is at or below the national averages for people with cancer, including breast cancer, he said.
If you want to find information about when the Mobile Mammography Unit is coming to a town, call 208-233-3000. To find out if you qualify for the Women’s Health Check program, call 208-239-5290 or visit www.sdhdidaho.org. For more information on any of the programs, call the Idaho Care Line at 211.