Money Well Spent on Cancer Tests HOWARD COUNTY

March 03, 1993

One in nine American women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime. Those disturbing odds underscore the necessity of early detection and treatment for all women.

And yet, countless times we are reminded that many women delay having a mammogram or breast exam until it is too late. The same is true for Pap smears to detect cervical cancer.

Often, the reason for delay is fear of the unknown. Little can be done about that obstruction beyond education.

But another reason that many women delay -- a lack of means to afford medical assistance -- is a shameful excuse that our society should not accept.

That is why it is good to hear, in this time of national retrenchment, that new resources from the federal and state government are being spent to help poor, elderly women get the cervical and breast exams they need.

In Maryland, all of the state's 24 jurisdictions are receiving grants that will provide free mammography screening, clinical breast exams, Pap smears and pelvic exams to women 50 and older who are uninsured, underinsured or have high deductibles on their medical insurance. The program also covers the costs of laboratory tests.

In Howard County, officials expect to provide the exams to 250 women a year.

That is well worth the $100,879 grant the county's health department is receiving to run the program in its first year.

Not only is it money well spent in the humanitarian sense, it is also a logical use of scarce resources.

Early detection for these diseases could substantially reduce medical costs associated with the higher-priced treatments necessary in advanced cases.

As heartened as we are by this program, we are mindful that it may be one of short duration.

A wave of new budget cuts could see it sacrificed to other priorities. Or it may be folded into a larger national health care plan being considered by the Clinton administration.

The latter situation would be more consistent with the trend toward preventive care. Detecting cancer early is always a worthwhile goal. Removing costs as an excuse smoothes the way in that direction.

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