Washington’s Three Susan G. Komen Affiliates Unite to Call on State to Nix Proposed Cuts to Breast Cancer Program

Komen Warns State Leaders Cuts Will Cost Lives and State More in Long Run

SEATTLE--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Breast cancer survivors and advocates from all three Washington area Affiliates of Susan G. Komen for the Cure® declared their alarm today at the proposed $1.5 million cut to the state’s breast cancer screening program, warning such a move will leave many low-income women with nowhere to go for life-saving services and could potentially cost the state more than $40 million in health costs over the long term. Governor Gregoire’s proposal effectively eliminates state funding for the first six months of this year for this vital federal/state program.

“We are all just one biopsy away from a changed life,” said Dr. Michael Hunter, board member and grants committee chair for the Puget Sound Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. “These women 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 the system and local budgets and with tragic consequences.”

Komen notes that detecting breast cancers early is critically important for survival. When breast cancer is detected before it spreads beyond the breast, the 5-year relative survival rate is 98 percent. Once the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, survival rates plummet to 23 percent.

Washington’s Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program (BCCHP) provides cancer screening and diagnostic services for low-income, uninsured and underinsured women in Washington who do not qualify for Medicaid. In 2009, 188 women in Washington were diagnosed with breast cancer through BCCHP. According to the Washington Department of Health, the $1.5 million cut would result in nearly 5,000 women being denied access to breast cancer screenings over the next six months – of these, more than 130 women would have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Komen warns that cutting early detection services is “penny wise and pound foolish.” Without the assistance of BCCHP, many of these underserved women will delay or completely forego recommended screenings, leading to later diagnoses, larger tumors at diagnosis, fewer more costly treatment options and lower chances for survival.

If the more than 130 projected cancers that go undetected due to the proposed budget cuts receive treatment after they’ve spread, the cost is estimated to exceed $40 million. It will only take 18 women to show up at an emergency room with late stage breast cancer to cost the state the equivalent of the $5.6 million in funds that the state contributes to the BCCHP program over each two-year budget cycle.

“We fully understand the tough economic situation our elected leaders face and the difficult choices they must make,” said Hunter. “Yet balancing the budget on the backs of our state’s neediest women is not fiscally responsible: it’s morally bankrupt.”


Komen Puget Sound Affiliate
Michael Hunter, MD, 425-899-1860
Board Member & Grants Committee Chair
[email protected]

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