City of St. Louis Department of Health & PECaD Mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Emphasize Importance of Regular Screenings

Prolonged delays in screening related to the pandemic may lead to delayed diagnoses, poor health consequences, and an increase in cancer disparities.

October 7, 2021 | 2 min reading time

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the City of St. Louis Department of Health is encouraging women to schedule breast cancer screenings to help catch and treat cancer early. In an effort to promote awareness of the most commonly diagnosed cancer among American women, reduce disparities and empower women to take charge of their breast health, Dr. Lannis Hall, a Washington University physician at Siteman Cancer Center, participated in a joint video with the City of St. Louis to outline the benefits of the Show Me Healthy Women program. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in their most recent data that cancer screening tests received by American women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program declined by 87% for breast cancer and 84% for cervical cancer during April 2020 as compared with the previous 5-year averages for that month. According to Think Health St. Louis, new cases of breast cancer and death from breast cancer have continued to climb year after year for women in St. Louis, and Black women are dying at higher rates. Prolonged delays in screening related to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated this trend and may lead to delayed diagnoses, poor health consequences, and an increase in cancer disparities among St. Louis women already experiencing health inequities. As such, the Department of Health is emphasizing the importance of regular screening and highlighting resources for individuals to get screened. 

 “We can decrease racial disparities in breast cancer deaths by increasing the regular screenings,” says Dr. Fredrick Echols, Acting Director and Health Commissioner for the City of St. Louis. “Regular screenings increase the likelihood of early detection and treatment success.”

“Early detection of cervical and breast cancer saves lives,” said Dr. Lannis Hall. “If these cancers are detected early before regional and distant spread, survival is over 90% regardless of race and ethnicity.”

As a member of the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) at Washington University and Siteman Cancer Center, Dr. Hall also promotes the program’s mission, working to make St. Louis a national model for eliminating local and regional disparities in cancer education, prevention, and treatment. Recognizing that optimal breast health is dependent upon having access to regularly scheduled screening services, the Show Me Healthy Women program, overseen by the state of Missouri, provides services completely free of charge to eligible women, including clinical breast exams, pelvic exams, mammograms (certain criteria apply) and PAP tests. 

If cancer is found, full treatment services are also provided, free of charge, through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act. Additionally, local organizational partnerships can help bridge the gap between important non-medical needs. Program services are available through local providers such as SSM Health, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Mercy, CareSTL Health, Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers, and Affinia Healthcare.

To learn more about the Show Me Healthy Women or WISEWOMAN programs, contact Cameron Smith at 314-657-1509 or smithcam@stlouis-mo.gov. Additionally, you can visit health.mo.gov and navigate to the Show Me Healthy Women link.

Video links below.

Video

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