Women Without Health Insurance Can Get Cancer Screenings
Women who do not have health insurance, who are underinsured, or whose income is low may qualify for free or very low-cost screenings for breast and cervical cancer. Currently, 8 to 11 percent of women in the United States of screening age are eligible to receive these services.
The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides funds all 50 states, the District of Columbia, five territories, and twelve Native American tribes or tribal organizations so they can offer breast and cervical cancer screenings to eligible women. The screening services are typically offered through nonprofit organizations and local health clinics. Since 1991, the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program has provided more than 7.8 million screening examinations to women who do not have health insurance, whose insurance does not cover such screenings, and/or those whose income is at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
In addition to the health insurance and low-income requirements, women must be of a certain age to qualify for the screenings. Cervical screenings (Pap tests and pelvic examinations) are available for women ages 18 to 64; women ages 40 to 64 can apply for breast cancer screening, which includes clinical breast examinations and mammograms. Women in both groups are also eligible for diagnostic testing if any of their results are abnormal and referrals to treatment.
When Congress passed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Mortality Prevention Act of 1990, it helped the CDC create the NBCCEDP. Then in 2000, Congress passed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act, which gave states the option to offer women in the Program access to treatment through Medicaid. With passage of the Native American Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Technical Amendment Act in 2001, Congress extended this option to Native Americans as well. By opening up screening services as widely as possible, the NBCCEDP officials hope to reduce deaths from breast and cervical cancers, which are disproportionately high among women who have no or inadequate health insurance.
Women who have no or insufficient health insurance can contact the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program office in their area to see if they qualify for free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screenings. Each state’s Department of Health also has information on how to contact the nearest program office.
American Cancer Society
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program