Potential Impact of Federal Budget Cuts on Cancer Services

By Guest Columnist: Theresa Osenbaugh
Community Outreach Manager
Komen Kansas City

Sequestration: employment of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in the face of annual budget deficits.

There is little doubt that you have heard the term “sequestration” in the news over the past few days and even weeks. If negations are not reached, a sequestration will take place beginning Friday, March 1st. Sequestration will affect the federal budget in a way that will devastate many programs and services across our country, including access to preventative breast health screenings and research for breast cancer.

Preventative Services

Sequestration would force the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cut support for every state in the country and means Americans would have less access to life-saving cancer screenings and increased health care costs in the long run. The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), created to reduce breast and cervical cancer deaths among medically underserved women, will see a reduction in services due to sequestration. The program is currently available in all 50 states, D.C., 4 U.S. territories, and 12 American Indian/Alaska Native organizations.

MammogramMachine_jpg-500x400NBCCEDP receives funding from the federal budget through the CDC. It also has matching funds provided by the state budgets and many Susan G. Komen affiliates provide funding as well. With this funding, the program has provided 10 million screening exams to 4.2 million women, detecting approximately 52,000 breast cancers, 3,000 invasive cervical cancers, and 142,000 premalignant cervical lesions. Annual screenings help detect breast cancer early, providing more treatment options at a lower expense. In cases where cancer is found, the state NBCCEDP programs help enroll women in Medicaid to ensure they receive the medical treatment they need to survive.

Federal guidelines have established an eligibility baseline for the program and each state has set their own standard guidelines within these baselines. In our community, Early Detection Works serves women in Kansas and Show Me Healthy Women serves women in Missouri. In the state of Kansas, funds from the Greater Kansas City and Mid-Kansas Komen Affiliates help fund education, annual mammograms and clinical breast exams for women ages 40-49 as well as screenings for younger women at high risk for breast cancer.

If the federal budget goes into sequestration, $48 million would be taken from the NBCCEDP program. 51,000 fewer breast and cervical cancer screenings would be available for women. Any cuts to the NBCCEDP would potentially increase the rates of breast cancer mortality in the U.S. In our community alone, 739 fewer Kansas women and 687 fewer Missouri women could get screened. This will likely lead to an increase in the number of women who show up at our area hospitals with late-stage cancers that are deadlier and much more expensive to treat.

Breast Cancer Research

Overall, the sequestration is currently calling for a cut of more than $2.5 billion to the National Institute of Health (NIH). The NIH is the nation’s medical research agency which supports scientific studies that change the face of healthcare. The $2.5 billion reduction would include a $450 million reduction to cancer research programs. This could lead to 2,300 fewer research grants being funded this year, which could prevent breakthrough discoveries from being translated into treatment advances and even delay research that’s already underway. The direct cancer research impact on our communities would be reductions of $5.2 million in Kansas and $23.7 million in Missouri. It is important to note that these cuts would hit the NIH after a decade of flat funding and at a time when their budget is already about 20 percent lower than it was in 2003. 

Moving Forward

Susan G. Komen for the Cure will continue to support breast cancer research, the state NBCCEDP programs, and local programs in our community providing education, screening and treatment. Next to the federal government, Susan G. Komen is the largest private funder of breast cancer research. Since 1982, we have invested $750 million in groundbreaking breast cancer research and $1.4 billion in breast cancer screening and outreach in communities across the country. However, our contributions are not enough.

As people who care about breast cancer, we urge you to contact your local representatives and ask them to maintain Congress’ long-term commitment to cancer research and early detection by protecting cancer funding in budget negotiations. You may call or email your representative. In our service area they include:

Senator Pat Roberts
Senator Jerry Moran
Representative Lynn Jenkins
Representative Kevin Yoder

Senator Claire McCaskill
Senator Roy Blunt
Representative Vicky Hartzler
Representative Emanuel Cleaver
Representative Sam Graves

To find your specific representative and information to email or write your representatives, please visit www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.

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