American Cancer Society says budget falls short on ‘high demand’ breast, cervical cancer screenings
Image via AP.

Breast Cancer AP
'Current funding levels fail to meet the severity of the pandemic’s impacts on cancer screenings.'

The American Cancer Society (ACS) is disappointed about the recently released Florida budget proposal, which the organization says does not fully fund the Mary Brogan Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program.

The budget allocates $1.83 million for the program, which provides free or low-cost screenings for Floridians who fall under the program’s eligibility requirements. However, that’s about $1.17 million short of the program’s requested $3 million — an increase in funding the ACS says would help address the record drop in breast cancer screenings at the onset of the pandemic that have yet to return to pre-pandemic rates. The increase would also help better reach members of the rural, Black and Latin communities, who make up a majority of eligible Floridians.

“We’re disappointed by the Legislature’s proposal today which fails to increase funding for such a lifesaving program at such a crucial moment for preventive cancer care and the fight against cancer,” said ACS Cancer Action Network’s Florida government relations director Susan Harbin in a statement. “Current funding levels fail to meet the severity of the pandemic’s impacts on cancer screenings and only reach a mere 8% of eligible women.”

Breast and cervical cancer screening rates fell by 80% in Florida during the pandemic, according to the ACS. Cancer diagnoses were down by nearly half last year, and Florida has yet to return to pre-pandemic screening rates. The ACS advocated for lawmakers to fully fund the program at $3 million in order to expand Florida’s reach to underserved communities most in need.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in Florida, according to the ACS. More than 20,000 Floridians are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone, a number that has yet to reflect the effects of the pandemic.

“We’re eager to work with lawmakers next Session to increase funding levels in a way that meets today’s demand and new reality in regards to accessing care with still so many Floridians unable to receive their recommended screenings as a result of financial impacts from the pandemic,” Harbin said in a statement.

The budget represents the consensus between the House and the Senate for the state’s financial priorities. Individual spending items are still subject to the Governor’s veto pen, however. Last year Gov. Ron DeSantis was thought to have wielded a relatively light touch when he slashed $1.5 billion out of the $101 billion budget.

Budget writers have agreed to provide an additional $37 million for cancer research, a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. That $37 million increase would bring cancer funding to $100 million, which matches what the Governor called on lawmakers to provide.

First Lady DeSantis has completed her chemotherapy treatments earlier this year, Gov. DeSantis shared in January. In early March, the Governor announced she was cancer-free.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].

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