DPHHS promotes resources to help Montanans find cancer treatment services
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Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and Montana Cancer Coalition officials are promoting resources to help Montanans find cancer care services available in the state.
The DPHHS Montana Cancer Coalition Program (MCCP) offers two interactive maps to support Montanans affected by cancer find available resources. The maps feature information for 214 distinct services from 57 separate providers.
“Providing quality customer service comes in many forms, and in this case making it easy to find these life-saving services is so important,” said DPHHS Director Charlie Brereton. “These interactive maps consolidate hundreds of services into one easy-to-find website to help Montanans find information for themselves or a loved one.”
The Cancer Screening and Treatment Facilities map includes information about where to access cancer screening services in the state.
“Early detection is the key to treating any type of cancer as soon as possible,” said Leah Merchant, DPHHS Cancer Control Program Section Supervisor. “It’s vital that Montanans have access to cancer screening services, know how to gain access to treatment, help with recovery and psychological support and how to access services to improve quality of life.”
For example, the map includes information on available cancer screening sites for no-cost breast and cervical screenings for women who are un- or under-insured.
To highlight the importance of early screening, Merchant said 92 percent of women diagnosed with early stage cervical cancer and 99 percent of women diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
This compares to only 17 percent of women diagnosed with metastatic cervical cancer and 30% of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
It’s estimated that in 2023 over 281,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the U.S., including 920 new cases in Montana. About 14,100 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2023, including 40 new cases in Montana.
Merchant states that most health insurance plans cover the cost of screening mammograms. For women who lack adequate insurance, the MCCP provides free breast and cervical cancer screenings (mammograms and Pap tests) and diagnostic services. Breast and cervical cancer screening services are available statewide, and local health department staff can help schedule screening appointments.
Other tabs on the map feature treatment for medical, radiation, and pediatric oncology, genetic counseling, palliative care and hospice.
The new Quality of Life Services map provides resources available in Montana counties under the categories of counseling, support groups, patient advocates, financial counseling and retreats that provide overnight experiences for cancer patients, caregivers, and family members affected by cancer.
“Cancer is hard, yet over 80 percent of people survive cancer diagnosis,” said Becky Franks, CEO Cancer Support Community Montana. “It’s important to bring attention to ways to improve quality of life during and after cancer treatment.”
Franks also emphasized “there are many treatment modalities and support services available, but it can be challenging to find them, and these maps improve the ability to locate the needed services,” she said. “In addition, we will use this map to track resource deserts and think about how to fill the needs of Montana residents who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis.”
Franks said feedback about the maps has been positive. For example, she said a physician from the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City used the maps to find resources to help a local Montana patient.
Also, map improvements are already in the works for later this year when a new category will be added called Occupational Therapists in the Treatment of Cancer Patients. This is for services for people who have lost, or lost the use of limbs, organs, or who suffer from cancer-related lymphedema.
For more information about the Montana Cancer Coalition, go to About - Montana Cancer Coalition (mtcancercoalition.org)