Planned Parenthood in Texas Losing Government Money for Cancer Screening

August 19, 2015

Government-subsidized breast cancer and cervical cancer screening will no longer be available through Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas beginning September 1, 2015.

Government-subsidized breast cancer and cervical cancer screening will no longer be available through Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas beginning September 1, 2015. As the state prepared its 2015 budget, lawmakers voted to withhold cancer screening funds from clinics that provide abortion services--which include Planned Parenthood.

The Planned Parenthood (PP) website states that each year, the organization provides approximately 400,000 Pap tests and 500,000 breast exams to women throughout the United States. Seventeen PP clinics in Texas provide cancer screening. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued on March 20, 2015, 79% of women who use PP services are at or below 150% of federal poverty level.1

Cancer screening services will not be eliminated completely, although women who do undergo screening will have to pay for it. And, if the screening shows suspicious findings, the women will likely be referred to another provider for any follow-up care and treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women start undergoing regular Pap test for cervical cancer prevention, starting at age 21.2 Regular cervical cancer screening has reduced the incidence and mortality from the disease by at least 80%.3

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, it is predicted that in 2015, there will be 15,420 new cases of breast cancer (15,131 in 2014) in the state, and 2,975 related deaths; and 1,112 new cases of cervical cancer (1,106 in 2014) and 390 related deaths.4, 5

Breast cancer screening recommendations vary from once a year for women at average risk after age 40, to once every 2 years after age 40. It’s more difficult to pinpoint the reduction in incidence and mortality from breast cancer because there are more variables in screening methods and the women themselves. For example, mammography recommendations vary according to age, breast tissue density, and the guidelines that individual physicians follow. However, there are studies that have shown that regular mammography screening for women between the ages of 40 and 74 years results in a relative reduction of about 15% to 20% in mortality from breast cancer.6

With the reduction in government-subsidized cancer screening for women in Texas who use PP services, advocates are concerned that many women will not be tested because they can’t afford to pay for the screening or they don’t have access to any other local clinic. Aside from the personal impact of diseases like breast cancer and cervical cancer, healthcare costs will be more than the cost of screening itself. In 1996 dollars, it was estimated that the medical expenditure for cervical cancer was $1.7 billion (direct costs).7 In 2010, this was estimated to be $16.5 billion for breast cancer.8

 

In reaction to the fears that some women won’t have access to cervical and breast cancer screening through Planned Parenthood, some politicians have said that other local clinics will make up the difference.

What are your thoughts on this decision?

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