American Cancer Society advocate Ellen Stephenson shares a laugh with friends at the state Capitol. She and other advocates are urging state lawmakers to set aside money for early cancer screening.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It is a sobering fact: more than 10,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in Florida this year.
The American Cancer Society says too many of them are not getting the early screening that's so critical for successful treatment.
On Wednesday, an army of advocates for the Cancer Society, many of them wearing pink, fanned out across the state Capitol to urge lawmakers to boost funding for cancer screening.
They're asking the Legislature to dedicate $1.2 million for the Breast Cancer and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Currently Florida is one of only seven states that don't contribute any state tax dollars to the program. It's funded entirely with federal cash.
Ellen Stephenson, who's undergoing treatment for breast cancer, says thousands of uninsured and poor women are not getting the mammograms they need.
"Access to a mammogram for me is what has saved my life. I was diagnosed in 2003 and without access to a mammogram I would not be here and I am still living from research miracle to research miracle because I got a mammogram."
The Early Detection Program offers cancer screenings and mammograms for underinsured and uninsured women between the ages of 50 and 64.
Stephenson says only 5 percent of the eligible women are actually getting cancer screenings through the program. Thousands are on a waiting list.
She says the costs of waiting are too high.
"Treated late, it's not just the fact that it's the treatments that are more costly. We're losing lives. We're losing mothers, you're losing daughters, you're losing sisters, you're losing aunts, you're losing friends."
Stephenson says Florida has the third highest incidence of breast cancer in the nation and the second highest number of deaths.
"With as high an incidence as we have in Florida, we need to be moving it forward in our priority list."