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U.S. House Approves Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Bill, Sends To President Clinton (dateline October 16, 2000)

On October 12, 2000, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would provide funding for the treatment of breast and cervical cancer among low-income women diagnosed with either disease through a federally-funded Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program. The bill, which was originally passed by the House in May 2000, was delayed due to concerns over its requirement to add warning labels to condoms about the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Earlier this month, a new version of the bill was approved by the Senate and has now been sent to President Clinton, who had said earlier that he would sign the legislation.

The bill would allow states to provide low-income women with Medicaid coverage to pay for the cost of breast or cervical cancer treatment. Currently, low-income women can receive free mammograms and Pap smears through the CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, but are not eligible for funding if they are diagnosed with cancer as a result of those screenings.

The chief sponsor of the breast and cervical cancer treatment bill was North Carolina Representative Susan Myrick, who completed treatment for breast cancer last May. Myrick says the bill is for working women who do not have health insurance.

Concerns have been raised that many women who are slightly above the low-income requirement for Medicaid would not be eligible for federally funded treatment. However, government officials have said that women who are diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer through the CDC screening program would immediately qualify for treatment under the proposed bill.

The bill was originally passed in the House last May but was delayed over its requirement that a warning label about the spread of the human papillomavirus (HPV) be placed on condom boxes. HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that affects both men and women and is a risk factor for cervical cancer.

However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) opposes that the HPV language be added to condom boxes. According to the ACOG, many strains of HPV will not lead to cervical cancer and the warning labels on condom boxes could be misleading, inadvertently reducing the use of condoms. The new version of the bill, which has been sent to President Clinton, does not include the HPV warning label requirement.

It is estimated that approximately 182,800 new cases of invasive breast cancer (Stages I-IV) will be diagnosed among women in the United States in 2000. Another 39,900 women will be diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), a non-invasive form of breast cancer. Approximately 12,800 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will also be diagnosed in the United States in 2000.

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