MADISON, Wis. - Adams County public health officials are collaborating with the University of Wisconsin's Carbone Cancer Center in a new outreach program aimed at making cancer prevention a top priority in public health.
Researchers said that in Adams County, the cancer death rate is 46 percent higher than the state average.
"And so what does that mean?" said Sarah Grosshuesh, with Adams County Public Health. "Does that mean they're not getting screened? Does that mean that they're finding out late? Does that mean they're not getting adequate treatment?"
Adams County public health officials are trying to answer those questions with the help of UW's Carbone Cancer Center. A new outreach program aims to utilize community awareness strategies in hopes to make cancer prevention a top priority.
"We really want to increase patient empowerment and decision-making," said Rebecca Linskens, with the UW Carbone Cancer Center. "So we want to make sure that they have the knowledge and information necessary to make the right decisions about both preventing cancer and also screening for cancer."
The road to recovery is a long one for cancer patients. And for those living in rural communities, the path can be even more daunting.
Jean Heitman, of the Town Of Easton, said she learned she had cancer in 1992.
"I discovered a painful lump on my right breast," Heitman said.
Heitman's youngest child was 6 years old when a doctor's diagnosis made it official.
"And I went to my garden, and I just screamed. That 'cancer' word was a terrible word," Heitman said.
Treatment involved multiple trips to UW Hospital in Madison, drives that Heitman remembers with dread.
"Because on those drives to Madison, it would take us about an hour and a half to get to the hospital," said Heitman. "It was an awful thing to know what I was going to be receiving on the other end."
As Heitman reflects on life after cancer, she said her hope for those along a similar path is that they never feel like they're traveling those roads alone.
"I want people to see this community as a positive one," said Heitman. "There are a lot of good people here, very good people."
Cancer death rate numbers were compiled using funds from the National Cancer Institute.
UW health officials said cancer disparities were associated with higher than average cancer risk factors, like smoking and obesity, low use of preventative health services and a lower household income.
Adams County officials acknowledged that all these factors are a concern in the county.