With over 10 percent of South Carolina residents without health insurance coverage, the Medical University of South Carolina's Mobile Health Unit, which launched last year, is offering free breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings to uninsured and rural residents in the state.
The unit, which also serves underinsured and low-income residents, travels to 31 counties across the state, most recently to Moncks Corner in Berkeley County. Hollings Cancer Centers' Mobile Health Unit partners with South Carolina's Best Chance Network, the state's breast and cervical cancer early detection program that provides free cancer screenings to eligible residents in the state.
"Access to healthcare for all South Carolinians, including those in rural communities, is fundamental to our state's public health," Dr. Brannon Traxler, public health director for the state health agency, said in a statement to The Post and Courier. "This includes equitable access to crucial preventive health services such as routine screenings to identify conditions in a timely manner."
Yolanda Walker, nurse practitioner for Hollings Cancer Center, said the unit screened 243 patients in 2022. Just two of the patients screened positive for breast cancer and another screened positive for HPV (Human papillomavirus), a sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and cervical cancer.
"This year, our goal is to see at least 800 patients," Walker told The Post and Courier.
The American Cancer Society estimated over 30,000 people in South Carolina were diagnosed with cancer in 2022. Breast cancer was among the four most common cancers in the state, and was the second-leading cause of cancer death among women residents.
And many rural, uninsured and underinsured women residents in the state go without their regular breast and cervical cancer screenings, leaving many to be diagnosed at the later stages of disease.
"It's best to be caught early and the only way to catch it early is to get screened," Walker said.
As for mammograms, Walker suggests women make sure they know their breast density, a term that describes the relative amount of different types of breast tissue seen on a woman's mammogram.
According to an article from the National Cancer Institute, dense breast tissue can make a mammogram more difficult to interpret and requires more in-depth testing. Women with dense breasts also have a higher risk of contracting breast cancer.
However, MUSC's mobile health unit offers 3D mammograms, which make it easier for radiologists to detect cancer.
Walker said women ages 40 to 64 should be getting mammograms every year. Women who are considered high risk for breast cancer, meaning they are genetically predisposed, have dense breasts, or a family history of breast or ovarian cancer should get screened on a more frequent basis and should consult their doctor about ways to reduce their risk.
Other breast cancer risk factors include reproductive history, aging, history of non-cancerous breast disease, or previous treatment using radiation therapy.
On Feb. 10, the Mobile Health Unit will be at the Walmart at 4920 Centre Pointe Drive in North Charleston.
For more information on MUSC's mobile health screenings visit www.hollingscancercenter.musc.edu/outreach/mobile-health-unit.