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State-backed cancer screenings proposed

Submitted Photo Sen. Roxanne Persaud, D-Brooklyn, speaks at the state Capitol earlier this year.

New York state may provide more cancer screenings and diagnostic services at no cost to patients.

The proposal is part of S.9258/A.10535 introduced by Sen. Roxanne Persaud, D-Brooklyn, and Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, D-Valley Stream, to increase spending on the New York State Cancer Services Program to $26.8 million a year while covering testing and diagnostic services for breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and ovarian cancer. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Health Committee for possible consideration when the legislative session starts in January.

Persaud and Solages cite American Cancer Society estimates showing 120,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in New York with more than 35,000 deaths in 2021, making cancer the second-leading cause of death in the state.

“Cancer patients, particularly those without health insurance, have long faced significant barriers to accessing care,” Solages and Persaud wrote in their legislative justification. “COVID-19 has magnified these barriers, with 46% of cancer patients and survivors reporting a change in their ability to pay for care due to the pandemic and 79% experiencing delays in active treatment. Various studies at institutions in the United States have shown a substantial decline in cancer screening rates during the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that fewer cancers will be detected by screening; when they do manifest, they will be at more advanced.

According to the AP, the persistently higher death rate among Black Americans remains a concern, and likely reflects social and economic disparities including poverty, less access to care and mistrust of doctors, said National Cancer Institute researcher Wayne Lawrence, who led the study.

“It’s showing that we can’t simply rely on medical care as a way to address and eliminate the disparities,” said Carla Williams, a Howard University expert in cancer-related health disparities, who had no role in the research, said to the AP.

Solages and Persaud say their legislation is one way to lessen the death rates for cancer between Whites and Blacks because it will result in more people having access to early detection testing.

“Health disparities across populations from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be uninsured, increasing the likelihood of being diagnosed with advanced cancer,” Persaud and Solages wrote. “The five-year relative survival rate is lower in Blacks than in Whites for every stage of diagnosis. The purpose of this legislation is to enable the early detection of cancer. Early detection increases the chances of successful treatment, improves survival rates, and saves New York overall on medical costs.”

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