From the good news/bad news department . . . State health officials say new national statistics show Arizona has the lowest cancer rate in the U.S., but the state also has more people diagnosed with late-stage cancer, often discovered too late.
That has the Department of Health Services touting early detection and prevention, such as mammograms, prostate exams and colonoscopies. But those screenings are more difficult to come by since the state no longer covers annual physicals.
While the exams are still covered under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, budget cuts approved by lawmakers and Gov. Jan Brewer last year eliminated coverage for checkups.
So patients are unsure how to get referrals and medical providers worry that patients will wait until something’s wrong before they make an appointment.
Sixty percent of Arizona women failed to get a mammogram last year, 44 percent of men didn’t get a prostate exam and 90 percent of adults older than 50 have never had a colonoscopy, according to state figures.
This year, more than 1,000 Arizona women will die because their breast cancer was discovered too late, the DHS said.
“Many factors affect whether people go for screenings,” Wayne Tormala, chief of the DHS Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease, said in a statement. “The economy may have an impact on early diagnosis as lost jobs means lost insurance, and that leads to potentially more advanced stages of cancers in our state.”
Health officials are concerned enough about Arizonans’ tendency to slack on cancer prevention and detection that they’ve created an online survey.
Go to www.surveymonkey.com/s/HBLPWRF to offer your thoughts.
– Mary K. Reinhart