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The Importance of Screenings...

My entire nursing career has been spent in oncology. I started as an inpatient hematology/oncology nurse, and later transitioned to outpatient services for screening, prevention, and diagnostics specifically with lung cancer. If you’ve spent more than a few minutes in our state, I’m sure you lost count of the number of farm fields you passed. Did you know that we live in one of the most tobacco dense farming areas? A fun fact about Wilson NC (pronounced “Wiltson” with an invisible T by its natives) is that it’s the largest bright leaf tobacco market.. IN THE WORLD. No, not the state. THE WORLD.

I often refer to Nash, Edgecombe and Wilson counties as the “Mini Triangle”. These three counties encompass a large population of rural communities with rich histories deeply rooted in tobacco farming, as well as lower rates of insurance coverage. With that knowledge, our lung cancer screening efforts and resources should match our market reputation, but this is sadly not the case.

Overall, cancer screenings have become more accessible over the years; however, there’s still room for improvement. Some screenings are simple: you walk in, sign patient information and history forms, get screened, then on your way. Other screenings require a doctor’s visit and referral. Some screenings are free, some require a small copay, and some even require a larger out of pocket expense. Take for example the uninsured and Medicaid-insured populations: both are required to pay an out-of-pocket expense, often as high as $250. Our vulnerable and under-resourced populations already have a difficult time paying for groceries, utilities, and critical medications. How are they expected to budget for a screening when there are higher priority items that need to be paid? Our mission is to find resources and connect the dots between our patients in need and the services available in our communities.

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