Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced a bill on Monday to reauthorize a program that funds breast and cervical cancer screenings for low-income women. “Breast and cervical cancer strike America’s women in large numbers and continue to be a silent killer in communities across the country,” said Senator Mikulski.
Since 1991, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program has provided almost 5.8 million screenings to nearly 2.5 million uninsured or underinsured women. Through the program’s work, approximately 22,878 breast cancers and 1,502 cervical cancers were detected. But the program is still only reaching about 20 percent of eligible women (aged 50-64) nationwide. The bill authorizes $250 million for the program for FY 2006, an increase of $55 million over this year’s funding, in order to serve more women and save more lives.
Meanwhile, a new poll of 800 women by the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation and Research!America found that that nearly half the respondents (47 percent) could not name any symptoms of gynecologic cancers (the most common being cervical, endometrial and ovarian). Yet 54 percent of those surveyed believe they are at personal risk for such cancers. A recent study by Decima in Canada, commissioned by that country’s National Ovarian Cancer Association, was even more dismaying: It found that 96 percent of the Canadian women surveyed could not identify the most common symptoms of the disease.
According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 80,000 cases of gynecologic cancers are expected to be diagnosed in 2005. If diagnosed in early stages, these cancers have a high survival rate; however, many of them go unrecognized and undetected until they reach a more critical stage where survival rates drop precipitously. Approximately 29,000 women in the United States will die this year from these cancers, the NCI estimates.