Access to healthcare in rural communities helps cancer diagnoses

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LADYSMITH, Wis. (WEAU)- “In a small town everybody's family,” said Shelley Barg.

It’s a city of a little more than 3,000 people, so when big news like a cancer diagnosis hits, “A lot of patients may not be feeling well so having them come close to where they live is a huge benefit,” said Dr. Dean Delmastro, who is a part of Marshfield Clinic Health System’s Oncology and Hematology department.

Rusk County is considered a low income population and an area federally designated with a health professional shortage, according to the state health department.

So for several years, Marshfield Clinic has been making the hour plus drive from Eau Claire to the Ladysmith area. It’s an effort to help save community members’ time and stress, and even a cancer diagnosis.

“There’s some data that would suggest that patients who live more than an hour away from their care can present at a later stage with cancer and the outcomes of cancer are related to stage,” Dr. Delmastro said. “Typically seeing someone in a local community would lead to a more expeditious diagnosis and treatment plan than having to delay their care because they couldn't get in to a nearby facility.”

This is especially true for breast cancer patients in Ladysmith, who in January was just able to upgrade to a new state-of-the-art 3D mammogram unit.

“We’ve seen many more mammograms read as normal,” said Barg, the director of clinical services. “They couldn't really tell what he was looking at before and now he can scan through the breast at very thin slices and see.

Barg had a hand in bringing this new tech to the area. “I had a passion for bringing this technology to the community, because it’s so important to have an early diagnosis when you're fighting breast cancer, and this helps us do that.”

For those diagnosed with any type of cancer in Rusk County, the Women with Courage Foundation does offer a stipend for patients to help.

This segment is sponsored by Marshfield Clinic Health System.