The ready availability of cancer screening is both a personal and a public issue for me — my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. She underwent treatment for several months, and I am truly happy to say she is a cancer survivor.

I am so thankful that her cancer was found early, and I feel blessed that we had health insurance that covered the cost of her doctor’s visits and treatment. As a state legislator, I’m helping women less fortunate than my wife fight to restore state funding to a program that provides them access to breast and cervical cancer screening.

For several years, the Louisiana Breast and Cervical Health Program (LBCHP) has received $700,000 in state funding to help low-income, uninsured and underserved women gain access to lifesaving tests for breast and cervical cancer. In this program, priority is given to never or rarely screened women, those who have not been screened within the last five years.

In addition to cancer testing, LBCHP ensures that all participants receive complete and timely diagnostic follow-up services and provides patient navigation with thorough follow-up to ensure that women do not fall through the cracks. One of the major benefits of this program is that women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer receive fast-tracked Medicaid eligibility so that they can quickly begin treatment.

Tragically, state funding for this program has been eliminated for fiscal year 2013-2014. If funding is not restored, the state will lose money and more women could die from undetected cancers.

Every state that contributes funds to the LBCHP qualifies for approximately 3:1 match in federal dollars from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In Louisiana’s case, if $700,000 in funding is not restored, our state could lose an estimated $1.7 million in federal matching funds. With Louisiana facing many fiscal challenges, now is not the time to turn this money away.

Although this has always been an important issue to me, I’ve become even more passionate about it since my wife’s own fight against cancer. I am truly concerned about the women who will no longer have access to cancer screening through LBCHP if funding is not restored.

Louisiana already loses too many women to breast cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that in this year alone, 3,630 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 650 will die from the disease.

It is important to ensure that all Louisiana women have access to lifesaving cancer screenings both today and in the years to come.

Chuck Kleckley, speaker

Louisiana House of Representatives

Lake Charles