Budget cuts reduce number of mammograms

November 24, 2009 10:32:09 PM PST
Irene Lorentzatos never misses a mammogram. Twice now, the image has turned up a mass in her breast. "I was a nervous wreck. I cried. It was just devastating," she said.

Luckily, the masses were benign.

Every year, Lorentzatos gets her mammogram at the Project Renewal Scan Van, which screens and examines under-insured and uninsured women across New York City.

This year, state budget cuts slashed Project Renewal's funding and director Mary Solomon has to turn women away.

"Women will die that's my biggest fear. Women will die," Soloman said.

In a good year, when the funding is there, 5000 women visit the scan van. But this year, because of the budget cuts, they can only screen 3100.

The same problem exists in every county in New York. Those providing mammograms and breast exams as well as cervical and colon cancer screens to the under-insured or the uninsured are telling many patients they don't have the money to do it this year and the problem could get even worse.

"Now the governor's proposed mid-year cuts, proposed another 1 million, so we know we're already turning away thousands of women, particularly in downstate New York and we can't handle more of that," said Michele Bonan of the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society says the cancer services program costs 29 million dollars to fund but saves the state more than double that amount in the long run by catching cancers before they spread and become expensive to treat.

At Project Renewal, Margarita Ruperto remembers the sister she lost to breast cancer. Her sister didn't have the benefit of early detection.

"Your health is the most important thing in life and if you can't afford it, it's tough," Ruperto said.