Cancer Advocates Remind Congress that Disparities Still Exist in Cancer Detection and Treatment
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Calls Attention to Funding Cuts for Critical Cancer Research, Prevention and Detection Programs During National Minority Cancer Awareness Week
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- April 19, 2006 -- As the nation directs its attention to cancer disparities during this year’s National Minority Cancer Awareness Week, the American Cancer Society and its sister advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN), are calling on Members of Congress to oppose cuts and increase funding for cancer research and programs. The Society and ACS CAN are concerned about President Bush’s budget proposal, which would cut funding for the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD).
The NBCCEDP, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides critical breast and cervical cancer screenings, follow-up services and information to low-income women primarily between the ages of 50 and 64 who are most at risk, such as uninsured, underinsured, and racial and ethnic minority women. The Society is asking Congress to reauthorize the program by supporting S. 1687 introduced by Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX). This bill would allow for greater program flexibility and support a funding increase of $45 million to allow at least an additional 130,000 eligible women access to it.
“This week reminds us that not all Americans are benefiting equally from the advances in cancer prevention, detection and treatment,” said Elmer E. Huerta, MD, MPH, First Vice President, American Cancer Society National Board of Directors. “Our concerns are heightened by the looming possibility of further cuts in federal funding for cancer research and programs, particularly those that are helping address the unfair burden of this disease. When our lawmakers retreat from their commitment to this disease, they not only steer us away from the path of progress, but they exacerbate the problem of disparities.”
President Bush’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2007, released last month, would cut NBCCEDP funding by a total of $1.4 million. Previous funding levels for the program have only allowed it to serve 1 out of every 5 (20%) eligible women nationwide. Since its inception in 1991, NBCCEDP has provided more than 5 million screening tests to nearly 2.5 million women, detecting more than 22,000 breast cancers, 76,000 pre-cancerous cervical lesions, and 1,500 cervical cancers. The President has also proposed a cut of $1.1 million for the National Institute of Health’s NCMHD. The NCMHD leads and coordinates NIH’s research efforts to find new medical, behavioral, and social solutions to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities as they affect racial and ethnic, rural and other medically underserved communities in this country. These cuts are in addition to a proposed total cut of $179 million for the CDC, a $40 million cut for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and no new funding for the NIH.
Studies show that ethnic minorities and other medically underserved populations have higher cancer rates and are less likely to be diagnosed early, when treatment is most successful – reducing the chances of survival. Lack of access to cancer prevention, early detection and treatment services due to lower education levels, language barriers, low income, and lack of insurance can be a significant factor.
ACS CAN and the Society are dedicated to reducing incidence and mortality rates among ethnic minority and medically underserved populations by advocating for increased access to quality cancer screenings and treatments. In addition to ACS CAN’s efforts to get reauthorization and increased funding for NBCCEDP, the Society is working with Congress to establish a federal pilot program for colon cancer screening and treatment in medically underserved communities. The legislation would fund demonstration projects that would enable grantees to explore new methods of providing screening and treatment in a way that meets the needs of their community.
The Society is also working with Congress to secure funding for the Patient Navigator, Outreach and Chronic Disease Prevention Act, which President Bush signed into law in June 2005. The act authorizes $25 million over five years to fund community programs that will improve access to health care for those who are uninsured, have low-incomes, live in rural areas or are of an ethnic or racial minority. These programs would fund patient navigators to act as a support system for the medically underserved, providing personal assistance in navigating the health care system and informing them about prevention and early detection services, as well as treatment options for chronic diseases like cancer. The Society played a key role in encouraging support for the legislation.
The American Cancer Society is partnering with ACS CAN, its sister advocacy organization, to eliminate cancer as a major public health problem. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across America. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org. ACS CAN, a nonprofit, non-partisan advocacy organization, uses voter education and issue campaigns aimed at influencing candidates and lawmakers to support laws and policies that will help people fight cancer. ACS CAN does not endorse candidates and is not a political action committee (PAC). For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
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