Baltimore Medical System (BMS) is on a mission to get women the breast cancer screenings they need.
It’s not surprise that the American Cancer Society reports breast cancer as the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women. But not every woman experiences it the same. Minority populations may encounter more obstacles to prevention, screening and treatment.
Breast cancer affects slightly fewer Black women than white women, yet resulting deaths are 40% higher among Black women. Triple negative breast cancers, which have more limited treatments, are twice as common in Black women. Hispanic and Latina women are less frequently diagnosed in the early stage of cancer and often face a poorer prognosis. Limited income may play a role in timely diagnosis and access to lifesaving treatments. Uninsured women are half as likely to be up-to-date on their mammograms as those with private insurance or Medicaid.
BMS serves more than 60,000 patients annually. Staff witnessed a significant decrease in patients coming in for routine cancer screenings, including mammograms, during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, BMS launched a “Return to Screening” initiative in June 2021. A $20,000 grant from the American Cancer Society is fueling screening efforts, which include reaching out to current patients who are due or overdue for mammograms, offering incentives like gift cards or entries into prize drawings and providing free rides to mammograms from Uber Health when lack of transportation presents a barrier to care.
BMS centers at the Belair and St. Agnes locations have a goal to increase the completed mammogram percentage among women ages 50 to 74 from 45% to 50% by Dec. 31. So far, both centers have seen about a 1% increase, according to Erica Isles, MD, FAAFP, the center medical director and family medicine physician for Belair-Edison Family Health Center. “By the end of the project, we will have provided one-to-one patient education, patient reminders, reduction of structural barriers, provider assessment and feedback, and limited patient incentives,” notes Isles.
In addition to mammography, the BMS Cancer Screening Performance Improvement Team aims to increase cervical and colon cancer screenings. All of Baltimore’s communities deserve appropriate, safe and equitable access to cancer prevention and care. Early detection is the best prevention.