Rural women are more likely than women living in cities to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer, a new study has revealed.
Faustine Williams, a doctoral student in the Department of Rural Sociology in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, found that women who travel 50 to 75 miles to a healthcare facility are 10 percent more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer.
She says women in rural areas are less likely to seek preventative treatment and testing due to the high cost and time necessary. Identifying breast cancer earlier increases survival rates.
"The stage at which the cancer is diagnosed has a tremendous impact on the type of treatment, recovery and survivability," said Williams.
"Finding ways to identify and treat breast cancer sooner are keys to increasing survivability."
Many states offer free breast cancer screening programs; however, programs can be improved to better serve women in rural areas. In Missouri, Williams recommends changes to the Show Me Healthy Women (SMHW) program, a free breast and cervical cancer-screening program for Missourians.
To receive a free screening, women must meet certain age, income and insurance guidelines. Although there are 180 facilities throughout the state, they are unevenly distributed. Several rural counties do not have a single facility. Williams recommends that programs like SMHW make facilities more accessible to women in rural areas.
"In some cases women in rural areas must spend an entire day seeking routine medical treatment," Williams said.
"By strategically placing health screening facilities in poor and rural areas, women would have better access to health care and it would increase the likelihood that rural women would seek medical care and be diagnosed with breast cancer earlier," she added.