State cuts affect preventative cancer screenings

By Alyssa Donovan

January 15, 2013 Updated Jan 16, 2013 at 10:56 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill.-- Women across Illinois are being forced to wait to receive a life-saving test.

Due to funding cuts to the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, uninsured and under-insured women are being wait listed for mammograms.

The program used to serve almost 40,000 women but since the cuts went into place on July first, 7,000 fewer women are able to be screened. That is causing agencies to create priority waiting lists.

"If a woman actually has problem, if they found a lump or they are symptomatic they immediately get screened but if you're just going for a general screening mammogram... No symptoms... Those are the people that are having to wait on the list," said Breast Health Navigator Jolene Clifford. "But sometimes, there are no symptoms for a cancer and it can be diagnosed with a mammogram."

Right now, almost 5,000 women are waiting throughout Illinois. These lists are constantly rearranged on patient criteria like age, family history, and when they were last screened.

Although these factors create a greater risk, they are not always a factor in those diagnosed.

Gayle Young of Susan G. Komen says 80 percent of people with breast cancer have no known family history. Convincing women to get a preventative mammogram is a challenge in itself.

Young said, "Once they get to the screening location, they're finding that they are not able to get screened because the dollars aren't there. And once someone is on a priority list will they come back if they are on a waiting list? We don't know."

The preventative screening can detect early stages of breast cancer. When found early, treatments are more successful and less invasive.

Young says cutting the funds for the preventative service could cost the state more in the long run and cancer diagnosed in the later stages is more expensive to treat. Those diagnosed with breast cancer through the program automatically have their treatment paid for by Medicaid.

"Our hope is that there are no additional cuts beyond where we are and we would certainly love to see some of those funds put back in," Young said.

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