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California Breast Cancer Survivors and Advocates Call on State to Nix Screening Cuts

Friday, December 11, 2009 Cancer News J E 4
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SACRAMENTO, Calif., Dec. 10 Breast cancer survivors and advocates from all seven California Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the CureŽ signaled their alarm today at the recently announced cuts to California's Every Woman Counts 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.

"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.

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

The news about changes to EWC come on the heels of new mammography screening recommendations recently unveiled by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which generated significant controversy and confusion for women. Some have interpreted the guidelines as a recommendation against mammography for women age 40 to 49. In fact, the task force actually intended to encourage women to talk with their providers and assess their personal risk factors in deciding whether to have a mammogram. However it was intended, the potential for impediments to screening based on the guidelines exist.

"Women ages 40 to 49 must have access to mammography if they need it," said Jennifer Luray, president of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Advocacy Alliance. "As states across the country struggle to balance their budgets, we will be watching to ensure the USPSTF recommendations are not used as a justification for slashing these critical services to women in need."

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.

In California alone, 21,700 women will have been diagnosed with breast cancer this year and more than 4,000 will have lost their battle with the disease.

"We know the need will continue regardless of the ability of the state to meet it. Komen Affiliates will continue to do our part to meet the needs of underserved women; yet, these resources are extremely limited and not available in all areas. We cannot do this alone," said Sanderson. "Komen for the Cure and its Affiliates have long been concerned that one-third of women in the U.S. today -- some 23 million -- are already not receiving regular recommended screenings due to lack of access, education or awareness. Unfortunately, the decision to restrict access to the Every Woman Counts program makes the problem even worse."

About Susan G. Komen for the CureŽ

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world's largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the CureŽ, we have invested more than $1.5 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast health or breast cancer, visit www.komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN.

About the California Collaborative of Susan G. Komen for the CureŽ

The California Affiliate Collaborative of Susan G. Komen for the CureŽ represents the seven Komen California Affiliates: Sacramento Valley, Central Valley, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Inland Empire, Orange County and San Diego. The Collaborative expresses breast cancer concerns of over 198,000 California Komen constituents made up of activists, survivors and volunteers. Formed in 2003, we joined together forming one voice to fulfill the Komen promise, to save lives and end breast cancer forever.

SOURCE Susan G. Komen for the Cure
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