Objective: To examine the extent to which the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (Program) has helped to meet the mammography screening needs of underserved women.
Methods: Low-income, uninsured women aged 40-64 are eligible for free mammography screening through the Program. We used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate the number of women eligible for services. We obtained the number of women receiving Program-funded mammograms from the Program. We then calculated the percentage of eligible women who received mammograms through the Program.
Results: In 2002-2003, of all U.S. women aged 40-64, approximately 4 million (8.5%) had no health insurance and had a family income below 250% of the federal poverty level, meeting Program eligibility criteria. Of these women, 528,622 (13.2%) received a Program-funded mammogram. Rates varied substantially by race and ethnicity. The percentage of eligible women screened in each state ranged from about 2% to approximately 79%.
Conclusions: Although the Program provided screening services to over a half-million low-income, uninsured women for mammography, it served a small percentage of those eligible. Given that in 2003 more than 2.3 million uninsured, low-income, women aged 40-64 did not receive recommended mammograms from either the Program or other sources, there remains a substantial need for services for this historically underserved population.