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More U.S. States Approved to Participate in Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act to Help Low Income Women (dateline June 12, 2001)

Six more U.S. states have completed the steps required to provide aid to low income women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through a federally funded program. The Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act of 2000 (public law 106-354) was signed by former President Clinton in October 2000 and allows states to provide eligible women with Medicaid coverage to pay for the cost of breast or cervical cancer treatment. The six states, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah, join a handful of others* that have been approved to participate in the program.

"I am proud of the action we are taking today to assure that women who are fighting these diseases will get the help they need," said Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson in an announcement on June 1, 2001. "This new program meets the administration's goal of allowing states to exercise the options they believe will best benefit their citizens. I hope other states will soon follow in the footsteps of these six states."

Before the bill was signed, low-income women could receive free mammograms and Pap smears  through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, but they were not eligible for funding for treatment if they were diagnosed with cancer as a result of those screenings. Now, women who meet eligibility requirements can receive Medicare benefits to cover the cost of treatment detected through the CDC program.

To be eligible for the new program, women must meet the following requirements:

  • Have been screened for and found to have breast or cervical cancer, including pre-cancerous conditions, through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program
  • Be under age 65
  • Be uninsured and otherwise not eligible for Medicaid

The states listed in the box below have been approved to participate in the federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act. According to the CDC, as of June 5, 2001, all other states except Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming have taken actions toward having the Act implemented. These actions include the introduction or enactment of legislation, revision or enactment of regulations, or the submission of revised Medicare plans. Secretary Thompson announced that he would write letters to the governors of the remaining states "to encourage them to take advantage of this new program."

U.S. States Approved To Participate in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Act

New Hampshire*
Rhode Island*
South Dakota
West Virginia*

The CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program began its eleventh year in 2001, offering breast and cervical cancer screening to low-income women in 50 states, six U.S. territories, and 12 American Indian and Alaska Native organizations. According to Secretary Thompson, over 1.7 million women have participated in the breast and cervical cancer screening program since its implementation in 1990. Yet according to the CDC, the program only reaches 15% of eligible women. Increased public awareness about the importance of detecting breast and cervical cancers in early stages may help motivate more women to take advantage of the CDC program.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women today after lung cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2001 approximately 192,200 new cases of invasive breast cancer (Stages I-IV) will be diagnosed among women in the United States. Another 46,400 women will be diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive breast cancer (DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer, confined to the milk ducts of the breast). While cervical cancer is less common than breast cancer, an estimated 12,900 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2001 and approximately 4,400 American women will die from the disease this year.

In the case of both breast cancer and cervical cancer, early detection can lead to greater chances of successful treatment and survival. When breast or cervical cancer is detected before it has invaded any surrounding tissues, the five-year survival rate is close to 100%.

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