By Mary Mason

Melissa Bell is the Care for Yourself Coordinator at UnityPoint in Muscatine.  As part of her position, Bell oversees the Take Care of Yourself Program.

The statewide program aims to increase awareness of resources within the community and stress the importance of breast and cervical cancer screenings. The aim is to assist patients in earlier detection.

The program is aimed at women ages 40 and above, and those under 40 who may be symptomatic.  The main focus is women without health insurance coverage or who may have high deductibles and/or copays. The program helps by covering costs associated with annual exams, including pap tests and mammograms.

According to Bell, “The program offers generous income guidelines and does not require documentation of income and citizenship.”

The program covers all counties in the state of Iowa and each county is assigned a coordinator. Jefferson, Johnson, Keokuk, Louisa, Muscatine, and Washington counties are covered by Bell.

Bell explains, “According to Komen Quad Cities Executive Summary, research shows that women in Muscatine County from minority and medically underserved populations will more likely receive a breast cancer diagnosis at an advanced or late stage, due to the socioeconomic factors that cause delays in receiving screening services as well as biological factors that affect Hispanic/Latina women.


“This means women are not getting their annual screenings completed on a regular basis and therefore are not catching breast cancer at its earlier stages, when a woman’s chances for survival are higher.  Establishing a baseline with your screenings, earlier detection can be identified and significantly increase a woman’s chances of beating the disease,” she continues.



Bell encourages residents to spread the word about getting screened, even after the month of October.