Purpose Early detection remains the best way of preventing mortality from breast and cervical cancers; however, mammography, breast examinations, and Papanicolaou tests remain widely underused, especially among low-income women, leading to decreased survival in this group. Within Gallatin County, Montana, nearly 22% of the Belgrade population lives below the poverty level; people with lower incomes have greater health risks.
Methods A literature review on MEDLINE emphasized the importance of patient education by health care providers as well as the need for early detection via cancer screening studies. Numerous free health services exist for Gallatin County residents that remain unused. An educational gathering was offered to women in the Gallatin Valley during which they were introduced to the Montana Breast & Cervical Health Program and learned the eligibility requirements. In order to overcome barriers previously prohibiting women from applying, paper copies were provided and eligible women were assisted with applications. Additionally, women were instructed on techniques for breast self-exam (BSE) and given BSE shower cards, and questions about cervical cytology were addressed. An article highlighting services for low-income women was submitted to The Belgrade News.
Results Women were receptive to conversations about health improvement and education about free services. Seven eligible women were assisted with their applications for the Montana Breast & Cervical Health Program.
Conclusion By providing affordable screening services and education, deaths due to breast and cervical cancer will be reduced. This project exposed Belgrade women to previously unknown resources and has, as a result, empowered them as advocates of their health.
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