Susan Harbin: Mary Brogan Program helps ensure health equity and saves lives

ACSCAN Rally 2017
Screenings save lives, especially for breast cancer.

Cancer has touched a majority of Floridians’ lives in some way — whether they have faced their own cancer diagnosis, are a friend to someone who has suffered from it, or have lost a loved one to the horrible disease. Cancer’s devastation knows no boundaries, but not everyone faces an equal burden.

Underserved communities experience higher mortality rates of cancer, largely due to inadequate access to care. It’s a significant barrier that keeps too many from receiving their regular, recommended screenings from a health care professional.

Those screenings save lives, especially for breast cancer. The five-year survival rate for breast cancers diagnosed at an early stage is 99%. Unfortunately, just one-third of uninsured Florida women are up-to-date with breast cancer screenings.

Thankfully, there’s a program that provides lifesaving cancer screenings to those who need it most: the Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. For over 20 years, the program has actively saved Florida women by providing early detection and a path to treatment.

It has the potential to save many more if additional resources are made available. That’s why we are asking Florida legislators to help save lives by increasing the program’s funding this year.

At current funding levels, the Mary Brogan Program only reaches about 8% of the eligible population in Florida. A boost in funding could help detect more breast and cervical cancers early when they are more successfully treated. It also means helping many more women who don’t know they have cancer and lack the means to even find out.

It’s vitally important that we do everything we can to increase access to these lifesaving screenings. An unfortunate result of the pandemic is that countless Floridians have been forced to neglect key medical appointments, putting important screenings like mammograms on the back burner. For breast cancer specifically, screenings dropped off 87% nationwide at the onset of the pandemic.

And while providing more women with access to lifesaving services is undoubtedly what matters most, early detection of cancer can also mean treatment is less expensive. Cancer imposes a massive financial burden on our state, costing approximately $7 billion in hospital charges each year, and in recent years breast and cervical cancers have accounted for over $240 million of those charges.

An analysis of the Mary Brogan Program found that every dollar spent on breast and cervical cancer screenings and diagnostic tests results in over twice that in cost savings.

By increasing funding for the Mary Brogan Program to at least $3 million this year, Florida lawmakers will make it possible for more women to have access to the early detection that has proved to save lives — and fewer state dollars will need to go toward late-stage cancer treatment costs.

Legislators should fully invest in the Mary Brogan Program this year, now more than ever, to help save the lives of loved ones.


Susan Harbin is the Senior Director of Government Relations for the Florida branch of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network.

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