Fort Worth Report: Moncrief Cancer Institute Brings Screenings to Residents

by Cristian ArguetaSoto, May 19, 2022

South Fort Worth resident Maria Gomez, 55, lined up for her routine mammogram screening recently at the Moncrief Cancer Institute’s mobile screening clinic.

“It’s something good because it’s close to your home, you don’t have to travel very far and it’s something accessible in terms of budget,” Gomez said in Spanish. “It’s on a weekend, so I don’t have to worry about asking for time off from work.”

Gomez stopped her routine screenings when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. She was frightened of being around people in medical settings, making it too difficult to go to clinics, she said.

January 2022 grant for $9 million is enabling the Moncrief Cancer Institute to target underserved communities with free screenings, educational and outreach programs.

The money will be awarded over the next three years.

“There are lots of different barriers to people getting screened,” Dr. Keith Argenbright, the director of the Moncrief Cancer Institute, said.

Lack of insurance, lack of trust in a medical site partly because of language and representation and geographic barriers like not enough access to clinics or transportation are big problems, Argenbright said.

“We’re going to try to reduce that geographic barrier by getting that (clinic) as close to you and as convenient to you as possible,” Argenbright said.

The mobile screening clinic hosted its screenings on May 14 outside of Mercy Clinic, 775 W. Bowie St. Every 15 minutes a patient went in and came out.

Inside the mobile clinic: a mammogram screening room with 3-D mammography units, closed exam pap smear and colorectal screen rooms, and a reception area.

Patients can receive colorectal screenings, pap smears and blood tests for prostate cancer in the closed exam rooms.

Breast cancer screenings dropped 29% below the historical average by June 2021, colorectal cancer screenings were 36% below and cervical cancer screenings were 35% below compared to pre-March 2020 levels, according to a recent study conducted by the Epic Health Research Network.

The institute wants to avoid a post-pandemic cancer disaster.

Cancers can be cured in many different ways, if caught early, Argenbright said. Screening plays a huge role in catching cancers early.

A large portion of the grant pays for the screenings and blood tests and further testing, if needed, Argenbright said. The other portion funds community outreach staff — their only job is to go out in the community to talk with churches, community organizations, community leaders and host events at grocery stores or community centers, he said.

“People who aren’t typically engaged and plugged into the healthcare system kind of have a hard time navigating those follow-up appointments,” Argenbright said. “We have nurses who are trained to help them navigate that, to try to make the appointments for them, to make sure that they have transportation in case they need to get to the appointment.”

For residents like Gomez that cannot access transportation easily, the mobile screening “helps a ton,” she said.