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Avon survey finds uninsured women victims of new breast cancer screening recommendations


Remember when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released their controversial recommendations last November for how often women should be screened for breast cancer?


They recommended against routine mammography screening for women aged 40 to 49 years and recommended screening every other year between the ages of 50 and 74 years, but didn’t endorse any further screening after age 74.

They also recommended against teaching breast self-examinations and stated they felt there was “insufficient evidence” for doing clinical breast examining, digital mammography, and MRI.

Needless to say, the recommendations caused an uproar with most thinking that no serious person would actually follow those recommendations. Well, a new survey finds that some states are not only taking their lead from the USPSTF recommendations but because of them are justifying cuts of mammogram services accessed by uninsured women.

The Avon Foundation for Women Survey examining the early impact of new breast cancer screening guidelines found that some states, acting under the pretense of the USPSTF recommendations, have changed their policies on who receives breast cancer screening mammograms:

24 percent of respondents report a decrease in the number of women under age 50 being screened or seeking appointments for screening at their facilities

Respondents from 25 percent of the states represented in the survey report changes in the Breast & Cervical Cancer Early Detection programs (BCCED) either reducing or eliminating mammography and other early detection services for women under age 50

According to survey respondents, the following states have made changes to their BCCED programs:

Respondents from Alaska, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York and Washington D.C. say changes in their state’s programs have already occurred due to a variety of reasons including budget cuts and the recommended guidelines.

Respondents from Michigan told us they have been instructed to have women under 50 be only 25% of the total women they serve. To accomplish this, some providers are starting at 44.

Respondents from South Carolina and Rhode Island both have state programs for 40-49 year old women, and have been told the programs are being scaled back due to budget issues. Screening 40-49 is allowed today, but they have been told to anticipate changes.

These findings are disappointing since women without insurance turn to state programs for preventive care. Combine that fact with the fact that more Latinas are without health insurance and breast cancer is the leading cause of death among Latinas, then this cost-cutting measure by states converts into a death sentence for many uninsured Latinas.

The issue of Latinas and breast cancer is so urgent that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® announced last week they were contributing $1 million to the largest study ever conducted of breast cancer in Latin American women.

Due to launch this year, the research will be conducted in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay.

“This landmark collaboration between Komen, the National Cancer Institute, and (the) five Latin American countries will help us get to answers about genetics, environment and social issues that contribute to breast cancer deaths in Latinas,” said Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Komen for the Cure.

It seems pretty obvious that the logical route to take in curbing breast cancer deaths among Latinas, especially those who are uninsured, is that they have access to preventive care and receive the proper education in knowing when to call the doctor to report something doesn’t feel right in their breasts — regardless if they fit the new “recommended guidelines” or not.

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