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Update: More U.S. States Approved to Participate in Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act to Help Low Income Women (dateline September 13, 2001)

Nine more U.S. states received approval to provide aid to low income women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through a federally funded program. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000 (public law 106-354) was signed by former President Clinton in October 2000 and allows states to provide eligible women with Medicaid coverage to pay for the cost of breast or cervical cancer treatment. The nine states, Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, join 10 others* that have been approved by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to participate in the program.

"These expansions offer help, hope and health care to women who otherwise would receive only a diagnosis that may sound like a death sentence," said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in an August 27 press release. "With these approvals, women who had no health coverage can now get immediate access to life-saving treatment through Medicaid."

Before the bill was signed, low-income women could receive free mammograms and Pap smears through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, but they were not eligible for funding for treatment if they were diagnosed with cancer as a result of those screenings. Now, women who meet eligibility requirements can receive Medicare benefits to cover the cost of treatment detected through the CDC program.

To be eligible for the new program, women must meet the following requirements:

  • Have been screened for and found to have breast or cervical cancer, including pre-cancerous conditions, through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program
  • Be under age 65
  • Be uninsured and otherwise not eligible for Medicaid

The 19 states listed in the box below have been approved to participate in the federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act. Many other states have begun or are preparing to participate in the approval process.

U.S. States Approved To Participate in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act

Newly Approved Previously Approved*
North Dakota
South Carolina Virginia
New Hampshire
Rhode Island
South Dakota
West Virginia

The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program began its eleventh year in 2001, offering breast and cervical cancer screening to low-income women in 50 states, six U.S. territories, and 12 American Indian and Alaska Native organizations. According to Secretary Thompson, over 1.7 million women have participated in the breast and cervical cancer screening program since its implementation in 1990. Yet according to the CDC, the program only reaches 15% of eligible women. Increased public awareness about the importance of detecting breast and cervical cancers in early stages may help motivate more women to take advantage of the CDC program.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today after lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2001 approximately 192,200 new cases of invasive breast cancer (Stages I-IV) will be diagnosed among women in the United States. Another 46,400 women will be diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive breast cancer (DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer, confined to the milk ducts of the breast). While cervical cancer is less common than breast cancer, an estimated 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2001 and approximately 4,400 American women will die from the disease this year.

In the case of both breast cancer and cervical cancer, early detection can lead to greater chances of successful treatment and survival. When breast or cervical cancer is detected before it has invaded any surrounding tissues, the five-year survival rate is close to 100%.

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