Government reauthorizes breast, cervical cancer screening program

April 26, 2007

President Bush signed a bill on April 19 reauthorizing for another five years the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

President Bush signed a bill on April 19 reauthorizing for another five years the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

The program, established in 1991, reaches out to low-income and underserved women who are uninsured or underinsured and helps them gain access to mammograms and nonimaging cervical cancer screenings.

The bipartisan reauthorization bill, spearheaded by Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), also increases funding for the program from $202 million in fiscal year 2007 to $275 million in fiscal year 2012.

Government data indicate that the program has led to diagnosis of more than 29,000 breast cancers, 94,000 precursor cervical lesions, and 1800 cervical cancers from nearly seven million screening exams.

Mammography screening rates have declined since 2000, however, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which runs the program (MMWR 2007;56(03):49-51). While the reasons for thisdecline are multifactorial, one study indicates that breast-imaging facilities face several challenges: shortages of key personnel, malpractice concerns, and financial constraints among them (Cancer 2005;104:491-498).

Because the number of women over 40 years old has increased by more than 24 million from 1990 to 2000, the number of available facilities and trained breast specialists might not be sufficient to meet the needs of the population, whose overall median age continues to increase, according to the CDC.

The CDC report goes on to say that low mammography use had been associated in the past with lack of a usual source of healthcare and health insurance and recent immigrant status. It cautions, however, that more studies are needed to confirm whether the declining mammography rate affects all women or only certain subpopulations.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Study questions accuracy of breast CAD

Internists' incendiary mammography advice reopens old wounds

Digital mammography hits mainstream use

Quality issue must move beyond mammography