Availability of mammograms should not be based on income


Published: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 1, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Dear Abby: I need your help. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We know the most effective method of early detection is mammography screening. However, the most recent survey of American women has shown that more than 40 percent had not had a mammogram in the past year, that many women fail to get regular mammograms, and that only one-third of women without health insurance were able to get a mammogram the previous year.
This issue resonates deeply with me for reasons that go beyond my being president of the American Cancer Society and a surgeon who meets and treats women with cancer every day. I, too, am a breast cancer survivor. It breaks my heart knowing there are women who should be getting mammograms, but aren't. Mammograms save lives!
For many women, the decision about whether to get a mammogram is out of their hands. They simply can't afford it. The American Cancer Society feels strongly that mammograms are not a luxury but a necessity, and all women deserve one every year.
We have spent decades in the fight to reduce cancer disparities by working to ensure that a greater proportion of Americans have access to screening and treatment. The society has been a longtime supporter of the CDC's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides access to high-quality breast cancer screenings and treatment to uninsured or underinsured women, with an emphasis on women between the ages of 50-64.
While the program has done extraordinary work to save the lives of women from breast and cervical cancer, it serves only 20 percent of eligible women due to lack of funds. And if that is not sad enough, its limited reach could be further compromised by proposals out of the White House and Congress to decrease funding.
I hope that you and your readers will agree that income level should not determine whether someone survives breast cancer. For more information on the program, or to find a local program to determine their eligibility, your readers should call 1-800-ACS-2345.
Carolyn Runowicz, M.D., American Cancer Society
Dear Dr. Runowicz and readers: Rather than cutting a valuable program that serves only one out of five women, shouldn't we be asking how the program can be extended to reach the other four who need help? A lifesaving program such as this one is too important to cut, because with a modest investment, more lives could be saved through it.
The American Cancer Society is asking Congress to support this program and give it greater flexibility to reach the women in greatest need and increase the funding so it can help more of them.
Because this is an election year, I urge concerned women to contact their legislators in Washington, D.C., and tell them how you feel about this important program. If you don't know who your representatives are, go to www.house.gov and enter your ZIP code. In simple terms, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so speak up and be heard.
A Happy New Year to my Jewish readers: At sundown the Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur - begins. It's a time when observant Jewish people fast, engage in reflection and prayer, and formally repent for any sin that might have been committed during the previous Hebrew year. To all of you, Shana Tovah. May your fast be an easy one.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.Dear Abby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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