Measure would restore breast cancer screenings for low-income women

March 24, 2010

Legislation to reinstate breast cancer screenings for low-income women as young as age 40 will be heard — and likely passed — by the Senate Health Committee today.

The bill, by Sen. Jenny Oropeza, herself a cancer survivor, would reinstate a service the state cut on Jan. 1, citing insufficient funds to keep up with rising demand for the screenings. Under the bill, SB 836, women who are eligible for the services based on their income would get screenings at any age if they exhibited symptoms and upon request if they are over age 40.

“The decision to suspend screening can be deadly to California’s low-income women,” Oropeza said. “Those who can least afford help in detecting and fighting this deadly disease are the ones most affected.”

The state late last year suspended new enrollments in the program for six months and reduced the age at which women were entitled to a screening from 50 to 40. The changes were expected to result in about 50,000 fewer women being screened for cancer.

The changes coincided with a national report suggesting that it is not cost-effective to provide regular mammograms to women before the age of 50. But the state said its decision to cut back eligibility for the program was not based on that recommendation.

The bill would require a two-thirds majority in the each house of the Legislature for passage, and the governor’s signature to become law. Given that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger approved the decision to reduce the services, prospects for reversing it are uncertain at best.

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