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Free Cancer Screenings Are in Short Supply for Poor Women

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On December 12, Yahoo News printed a story about how low-income women in 20 states are either being turned away or put on long waiting lists for free cancer screenings, according to the American Cancer Society’s, Cancer Action Network.

The organization conducted a survey of programs for July 2008 through April 2009 and it found that state budget problems are in the bad position of rejecting people who would otherwise qualify for free pap smears and mammograms.

The Cancer Society doesn’t know how many women are being turned away and health providers do not have the numbers of those denied screening. The average mammogram costs about $100 and the price of a pap smear can range from $75 to $200, according to the society.

Project Renewal Van Scan, usually gives mammograms to about 6,000 women a year, but has cut back to 3,100 this year, according to the project's director, Mary Soloman.

The states handle the free screenings in different ways. Some get assistance from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation and other groups, while other states use state funds to supplement federal funding.

There are 14 states that have cut back on the number of free screenings this year: Colorado, Montana, Illinois, Alabama, Minnesota, Connecticut, South Carolina, Utah, Missouri, Washington, Ohio, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Arkansas.

There are some states that cut their budgets and managed to keep services, while others haven’t reduced their budgets, but are turning women away because they don’t have enough money.

Dr. Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society said the following, “This is rationing of health care by offering screenings only in the first half of the fiscal year, or by cutting back on those programs. It’s rationing that is leading to people dying.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that since 1991, the free screening program has given more than 8 million screenings to more than 3.4 million women.

And the American Cancer Society says that the economy has forced reductions in screenings at precisely the time when more people are uninsured.

Add a Comment2 Comments

Expert HERWriter Guide Blogger

Hi Anna - Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Since the overall cost is far less when cancer is detected in the early stages these reductions are going to cost more in the long run, including more lives. Pat

December 22, 2009 - 6:43pm
(reply to Pat Elliott)

Hi Pat,
You are so right. These reductions are bad news for all concerned.

December 22, 2009 - 8:49pm
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