Overcoming transportation barriers to cancer screening

By Catie Davis

Transportation is a primary barrier for accessing health care, including cancer prevention and early detection services, predominately affecting rural Americans. Over 46 million Americans live in rural counties and are disproportionately impacted in accessing cancer care. 

Transportation barriers can include:  

  • No access to a working vehicle 
  • A lack of available public transportation 
  • No driver’s license  
  • Rising costs of gas, ride-shares and parking fees.  

Young, low-income, and under- and publicly-insured cancer survivors are the most impacted, as well as communities of color.  

While rural Americans can be especially impacted, transportation barriers can also be challenging for urban residents, as evidenced by several of our community grantees. 

So what can we do to combat transportation barriers? 

The Prevent Cancer Foundation gave $13,000 for transportation grants to 26 current and prior community grantees for their cancer prevention and early detection work across the U.S. in December 2022.  

Each organization received a $500 transportation stipend or Uber gift card to use toward community-level screening and education efforts; such as the Upstate Foundation in New York, assisting patients and community health workers in getting to mammography appointments and the Milwaukee Consortium for Hmong Health, Inc. in Wisconsin, who are helping reduce barriers and improve access to cancer screenings. In total, the Prevent Cancer Foundation distributed transportation grants in 16 states. 

Here’s what the transportation grant recipients said about how transportation barriers impact their work: 

“In some instances, patients travel as far as 200-miles round trip to access screening, diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, some patients who need to see a specialist have to travel to urban areas in Southern Michigan, a 400 – 500-mile round trip.”

– Izabela Babinska, Foundation Relations Officer, McLaren Northern Michigan Foundation 

“Based on a rough average of $2.75 per gallon of gas and an average of 20 miles per gallon (SUVs and trucks are the primary vehicles in our area), they were out about $25 per person.”

– Judy Neill, Executive Director, Panhandle Breast Health 

In these situations, the transportation stipends provided by the Prevent Cancer Foundation will allow grantees to provide assistance to their community members to offset the costs of having to drive such long distances. 

With these grants, we hope that community members will be able to more readily access cancer screening services and make their appointments because Early Detection = Better Outcomes.

Positive results are already being seen.  

A 2019 community grantee, Nueva Vida provides education, screening and navigation to Latinos, utilize culturally sensitive and competent educational sessions (charlas) and outreach activities to improve early detection.

As director of research, Dr. Laura A. Logie with Nueva Vida in Alexandria, Va. said, “Clinicians at the INOVA Saville Cancer Screening & Prevention Center offered to provide 20 screening mammograms for uninsured immigrant Latinas for an event held in February 2023. However, the only issue was transportation to get them there. Especially because there was no decent transportation.” Nueva Vida was able to use the transportation grant funding to assist in getting some of the individuals to these appointments.

Every day, the Prevent Cancer Foundation community grantees educate their communities and provide screenings and services so they can prevent cancer or detect it early. Barriers like access to transportation shouldn’t get in the way of those services—everyone deserves better outcomes for their health no matter where they live.

We look forward to seeing the continued positive impact of these grants and how they will help community organizations address transportation challenges within their localities. We hope to be able to provide similar support in the future to continue to reduce barriers to cancer prevention and early detection and improve care delivery in communities across the U.S. 

Looking to ameliorate transportation barriers in your community? Reach out to your local hospital or screening facility to see if they or a community partner offer any assistance with transportation. 

Interested in hearing about future community grant opportunities? Learn more about the Prevent Cancer Foundation’s community grants program and fill out our community grants notification form to stay in the loop.