Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) and Montana Cancer Coalition officials are teaming up to promote resources to help Montanans find available cancer care services.

The DPHHS Montana Cancer Coalition Program offers two interactive maps that should help Montanans affected by cancer find available resources. According to Leah Merchant, DPHHS Cancer Control Program Section Supervisor, the maps feature information for 214 distinct services from 57 separate providers.

“They are there to help folks across the state find services locally that can help them with cancer treatment, recovery from cancer, psychosocial support, and other services that are going to help them with quality of life during cancer treatment and also when the cancer treatment is done,” Merchant said.

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Montana is a large state and a lot of people live in rural areas. According to Becky Franks, CEO Cancer Support Community Montana, those people typically assume that access to care is not close by, but these maps will show you exactly how far you need to travel.

“If someone wants to get physical therapy, or see a sleep doctor, or get counseling, or get into support groups, or get financial assistance, there might be a coalition nearby that can get that for them, or if they need to get a screening, whatever it is,” Franks said. “In Montana, it can be that people drive two to three hundred miles just to get treatment and then forget about any kind of supplementary care because they don’t think it exists.” 

Franks said geography is a huge determinant in getting supplementary care, which is really what improves one’s quality of life. 

“I can get cancer care and that is going to make all my cancer stuff go away, but it is not going to make me feel like I have a life,” Franks said. “There are plenty of people that say, ‘it is too hard’ and ‘I am just going to die of cancer today because I am not even going to try’. Even with a stage one cancer, it might just feel like too big of a hurdle to actually get the care they need and they just don’t. We are trying to reduce that. Ideally, someday in Montana, you are only going to have to drive 100 miles to get treatment.”

Franks said they are taking a close look at these two maps to determine where they need more treatment services and supplementary care in Montana.

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