Komen Affiliates Urge Calif. State Leaders to Spare Cuts to Breast Cancer Screening Access for Neediest Women

SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — Assemblymember Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), breast cancer survivors and advocates from all seven California Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure signaled their alarm today at recently announced changes to California’s Every Woman Counts (EWC) program, which would effectively shut the doors to breast cancer screening services for 1.2 million low-income and uninsured women for the first six months of 2010.

Citing budgetary concerns, the state also announced that once they begin screening new patients this summer, only women age 50 and above will be eligible – significantly reducing the number of women in the state that will have access to affordable breast cancer screenings.

Said Assemblymember Pedro Nava, author of AB 359 signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier this year which increased access to digital mammography for women in California under the Every Women Counts (EWC) program, “This is a certain death sentence for many women. I find it unconscionable that state officials would arbitrarily prevent access to women under the age of 50 and cease enrolling those who are eligible. Statistics show that early screening and detection for all women saves lives and money. ”

Every Women Counts (EWC) is a joint program by the state Department of Public Health and the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Komen Affiliates noted that while 1.2 million women were eligible for EWC last year, the program only screened 270,000 women, 77,000 of whom were under age 50.

“We fully understand the tough economic situation our elected leaders face and the difficult choices they must make. Yet balancing the budget on the backs of our state’s neediest women is a mistake. We should not deny women, who have very few options and limited resources, access to screening and treatment services that may save their life,” said Donna R. Sanderson, Ed. D, Founder, California Collaborative of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Said Carmela Castellano-Garcia, Esq., President and CEO of the California Primary Care Association, “Clinics play a vital role in serving the individuals enrolled in the Every Woman Counts program. An attempt will be made to screen as many women under 50 as possible before the January 1, 2010 deadline. This program saves lives and it must be preserved.”

Early detection of breast cancer is a key to surviving the disease. When breast cancer is detected early, the 5-year relative survival rate is 98 percent, but declines to 84 percent for regional disease and 23 percent when cancer has metastasized or spread to other parts of the body. Unfortunately, women with low incomes who are uninsured or underinsured ­ like those eligible for Every Women Counts ­ are more likely to skip potentially life-saving cancer screenings, which leads to later diagnoses, larger tumors and lower survival rates.

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