OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – According to the American Cancer Society, more Native Americans die from their breast cancer diagnosis than any other ethnicity.
They say one in eight women in the American Indian and Alaskan Native community will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Access to care is one of the biggest issues within Native American healthcare,” said Dr. Tyler Freeman with the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic.
The statistics pushed the American Cancer Society to award the clinic a two-year $100,000 grant.
“These are underserved communities, and while they might not necessarily be diagnosed at a higher rate, they’re certainly dying at a higher rate and that’s because of a lack of access, a lack of education, lack of ability to get screened and get to treatment,” said Kasey Volpe, Health Systems Manager, State and Primary Care Systems for American Cancer Society.
To combat this lack of access, the clinic is using the money to help purchase a new mammogram machine and state-of-the-art software.
“It enabled us to get a new mammogram machine, as well as some fantastic software that is probably the best in the city to get 4-D imaging, as well as kind of interactive learning software,” said Freeman.
Doctors say in the past, they had to partner with community resources once or twice a month to bring in a mammogram van.
“Sometimes, people are using the buses, they’re having their friends drive them in, they’re only able to come in once a year, if that. And so, asking someone to come in for another appointment is a very big deal,” said Freeman.
Now, screening will be offered on-site so people can get screened the same day they’re at the clinic.
Freeman says it came at a perfect time because focusing on women’s health has become a huge priority for the clinic.
“Taking care of our moms, taking care of our women is very important to us as a society, but within Native American culture, it’s very important to sort of respect that maternal authority,” he said.
The clinic also just purchased the next-door building and have plans to expand.
The room that will house the new machine is being renovated right now.
They hope to start offering those in-house mammograms in January 2020.