Program Provides Breast and Cervical Screening for Low-Income Women
CHARLESTON – SC – September 22, 2009 – South Carolina cancer survivors and advocates say the continued funding of the Best Chance Network (BCN), a program providing critical breast and cervical cancer screening for low-income uninsured South Carolina women, is saving lives. And they applaud the South Carolina General Assembly for its continued support for funding the program.
Last year, with the state allocation of $2 million, BCN reached its goal of providing an additional 9,000 women with access to life-saving cancer screening – bringing the total number of women screened by this vital program to nearly 15,000. Continued support allows the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to maintain the eligibility age of 40 for the Best Chance Network, making the program consistent with American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s screening guidelines.
“The Best Chance Network’s mission is to reduce deaths from breast and cervical cancer by funding comprehensive screening services for women who meet age, income and insurance eligibility criteria, thereby finding cancers at earlier and more curable stages,” said Denyse Petry, BCN Area Program Manager at the American Cancer Society. “Being able to provide these services to more women, particularly those between the ages of 40 and 46 not previously covered by these services, will make a significant difference in the availability of healthcare for South Carolina women.”
The Best Chance Network is a part of the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program and is implemented through the S. C. Department of Health and Environmental Control and the American Cancer Society. The Best Chance Network has received federal funding to screen eligible women since 1991, but 2008 was the first time state funds have been allocated for screening.
“The expansion of the BCN program this year has met a critical need in South Carolina. As a result, an additional 5,974 women were screened and, during that process, 16 previously undetected breast cancers and 25 cervical cancers or pre-cancerous lesions were found. Of the women screened this year, 60 percent were African American. This is particularly important since African American women in South Carolina are often diagnosed late and therefore have a 39 percent greater risk of dying from this disease. This program is truly saving lives,” stated Dr. Lisa F. Waddell, DHEC Health Services Deputy Commissioner.
“On behalf of women and families throughout South Carolina affected by breast and cervical cancer, we thank the State Legislature,” said Cathleen Kelly, a breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed through the Best Chance Network. “I feel blessed that these funds are available to save the lives of many women in our state and to ensure that fewer people will lose a loved one to this devastating disease.”
The challenge for BCN and other proven effective cancer screening programs is to secure stable state funding so low income, uninsured women seeking life saving breast and cervical screening will not be turned away for lack of funds. As more and more women are losing health insurance due to a downturn in our economy, they are turning to BCN for their annual screenings. DHEC is committed to ensuring access to effective cancer prevention and early detection for the most vulnerable citizens of South Carolina. When diagnosed early, the five year survival rate for breast and cervical cancer is over 98 percent.
According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figure 2009, an estimated 2,990 South Carolina women will be diagnosed with breast and cervical cancer this year, and 640 will die of these diseases. The chances of surviving breast or cervical cancer increase dramatically if detected early. However, often due to less access to screening, uninsured cancer patients are 60 percent more likely to die of cancer than those with insurance, according to a study funded by the American Cancer Society.
“Funding expanded cancer screening and care for women who have no means to pay for these services is a historic step by our state at a time when our citizens desperately need a widening of the social service safety net. Continued state funds for this program could not have happened without the firm resolve of a broad range of organizations and individuals working together to reduce the cancer burden in South Carolina,” said Mary Lynn Faunda Donovan, Chair of the Advocacy and Policy Task Force and board member of the South Carolina Cancer Alliance.
“As a legislator, I am proud to have played a role in ensuring thousands of uninsured women will have access to lifesaving screening services for breast and cervical cancer through the Best Chance Network,” said State Representative Tracy Edge.
For more information or to find a Best Chance Network provider in your community, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 and ask about the Best Chance Network.
About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.
About Susan G. Komen for the Cure
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Susan G. Komen for the Cure has invested nearly $1 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world. For more information about Susan G. Komen for the Cure, breast health or breast cancer, visit www.komen.org or call 1-877 GO KOMEN. You can learn more about Komen in South Carolina by visiting www.komenupstatesc.org and www.komenlowcountry.org.
About the South Carolina Cancer Alliance
The South Carolina Cancer Alliance is a statewide non-profit organization whose mission is “to reduce the impact of cancer on ALL people in South Carolina”. The 1,100 members work to coordinate cancer control efforts and to strengthen and expand the capacity to address cancer issues in South Carolina. Visit www.sccanceralliance.org or call 1-866-745-5680.