Breaking Down the Impacts of Proposed Washington Budget Cuts on Breast Cancer Screening

“Women with cancer don’t disappear just because the state cuts screening.”
– Cheryl Shaw, Komen Puget Sound

Washington lawmakers convened on Monday for what promises to be one of the toughest budget years in state history. Governor Gregoire has proposed cuts to programs in an effort to make up for the $4.6 billion 2011-13 budget gap, including a $1.5 million reduction in state funding for the program that provides breast cancer screening to underinsured women in our state, the Breast, Cervical & Colon Health Program (BCCHP).

This cut will have severe impacts:

  • The program screened 20,000 women in 2009 – 188 of those women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
  • If the proposed cuts are made, 3,500 fewer women will be screened over the next six months.
  • The Washington Department of Health estimates 130 of those women would have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

At yesterday’s Health & Human Services Appropriations hearing, Cheryl Shaw, Executive Director of the Komen Puget Sound Affiliate testified, “Women with cancer don’t disappear just because the state cuts screening. They will show up at our hospitals with later staged cancers, putting an even greater strain on state hospital systems and local budgets.”

When breast cancer is detected early, the survival rate is 98%. At the other end of the spectrum, when the disease has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body) the survival rate plummets to 23%. Not only are there are fewer treatment options for more advanced cancers, but the emotional, physical and financial costs skyrocket.

The average cost of stage 3 breast cancer treatment is $300,000. It would take only five of those women described by Cheryl to cost the state $1.5 million – the equivalent of the proposed cuts. Late stage treatment for 18 women equates to the entire amount of the current program funding. Imagine the cost of 130 women.

We know breast cancer screening saves lives. Cutting funding for this program now will only cost us more in treatment expenses later. And it may cost someone their life.

I encourage you to show your support for this vital breast cancer screening program by asking your state legislators to protect the funding for BCCHP. The Komen Advocacy Alliance makes it easy through a special “Save lives in Washington State” page on their site.

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