According to an AP story on Saturday (Poor Turned Away From Free Cancer Screenings), at least twenty states are citing budgetary constraints which have “forced them to focus on those considered at highest risk” by excluding free screening for those described as lower risk (i.e. “women under 50”). The AP report also cites an estimate by the American Cancer Society that “34,600 women between 40 and 49 will be found to have breast cancer nationwide; in that age group, 4,300 breast cancer deaths are projected this year”.
The news item did not discriminate as to whether that ACS estimate of 4,300 deaths out of 34,600 women was predicated on the new or the old recommendations. I wonder how many of those 34,000 women may have cancers which will wait for one more year to be discovered and treated. My breast cancer’s telltale calcifications were not present on last year’s mammogram.
States which have cut budgets for free mammograms and PAP smears include Alabama, Arkansas, Carolina, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Utah, and Washington. With no records of how many people are being denied free screening, the ACS was reported as being unaware of just how many women have been turned away. Here in Oregon, the AP story reports that the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (BCCP) is limiting free mammogram screenings to 6,000 when 57,000 women are eligible. (However, those women with lumps are never turned away.)
Assurances from various political, insurance, and health officials that the recent U.S. Preventative Services Task Force guidelines recommending screening mammograms for those women over fifty would not affect women’s current access to screening are false.