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The many roadblocks that keep women from getting mammograms


Mammograms are critical in detecting breast cancer early, but everyday life challenges can get in the way of people getting that screening. New research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points to some of the challenges people face in getting screened more often. NPR's Yuki Noguchi has more.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Guidelines recommend women over 40 get mammograms every other year. The new CDC report shows just over three-quarters of women aged 50 to 74 get their breast cancer screening. But if you look at those who don't, often they lack the money for a copay or transportation, or no one's reminded them to.

Deb Houry is chief medical officer at the CDC. She says the data show how economic hardships and emotional challenges are common barriers that prevent people from getting their mammograms.

DEB HOURY: We really see a cumulative impact. So what we saw was if you had three or more of these health-related social needs, that was when you really saw a difference in who wasn't getting the screening mammogram.

NOGUCHI: That difference is pretty stark - 65% with three or more of these social needs, like food insecurity, were able to get screened. That's compared to 83% of those not facing such challenges. Houry says the analysis shows the importance of physicians understanding more about how their patients' lives are shaped by various kinds of struggles, like paying for food and utilities.

HOURY: You're going to choose food over paying for a mammogram.

NOGUCHI: She says the research also shows that emotional factors also play a role in who seeks preventative care.

HOURY: I think if you're not feeling connected to others, you may not be going to medical care on a regular basis.

NOGUCHI: Houry says all of this new data should inform patient outreach.

HOURY: Providers can refer patients who have low income and are uninsured to those programs and health departments, as well, for free mammograms.

NOGUCHI: She says, in many cases, there are state and philanthropic programs offering free transportation or free mammograms, including ones funded by the CDC.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.

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