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CDC starts screenings for women

Thousands of low-income women have received publicly funded mammograms and Pap smears in the first year of the Centers for Disease Control's massive cancer screening project.

The $50-million National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is a partnership between CDC and states to diagnose and treat cancer in women who aren't covered by private health insurance or Medicaid.

"This is the gap group, and our program is designed to close the gap," said B.J. Iacino of the CDC's cancer prevention division.

Between July 1991 and July 15, 1992, 13,178 women in eight states were given mammograms and 20,733 were given Pap smears, the CDC reported Thursday.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States. Health officials say that during the 1990s more than 1.5-million women will be diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer and 500,000 will die.

The earlier the cancers are caught, the easier they are to eradicate. Precancerous cervical lesions, for example, are curable in 90 percent of patients.

But the poorer the woman, the less likely she is to be screened for cancer and the more likely she is to die, the CDC said.

Under the early detection program, states map out a plan to screen low-income, uninsured women for the cancers and treat them. Once the CDC approves the plan, it forwards federal funds to the state, which must match each $3 in federal money with $1 of state funds or in-kind services.

So far, 12 states are screening women, but only eight had been testing long enough to report data by July 15. The CDC released that data Thursday.

Last month, the CDC gave federal funds to 18 other states to help them plan the tests so they can join the program.

"We intend to make this a nationwide program as soon as possible," Ms. Iacino said.

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