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Free cancer screenings at risk with potential cuts

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Cancer-fighting advocacy groups say more than one thousand free cancer screenings for uninsured men and women could disappear due to Governor Andrew Cuomo's state budget cuts combining with federal cuts from the sequester.

Members of the American Cancer Society call it a "double punch" of cuts that could result in more than $6.6 million in cuts to successful cancer fighting programs like free screenings. Many worry that the cuts will only create bigger problems for the state.

More than 108,000 New Yorkers are estimated to be diagnosed with cancer in 2013, and more than 34,000 will die from the disease.

The American Cancer Society says cancer screenings have been proven to save lives and reduce the cancer burden and should deserve more not less funding.

"I can tell you right now that we help people out of this office everyday with all different types of cancers," said Melissa Kehler, Director of Special Events for the American Cancer Society's Mohawk Valley Office. "And you know we see the face of cancer come through those doors and when people come and they've been screened that they have cancer we see more people living from cancer than dieing."

Melissa Kehler knows this first hand being a survivor herself. Her breast cancer was found through a free screening while she was uninsured.

"In my personal case it was very important because cancer didn't run in my family, so being screened for something that i thought might be going on because something didn't feel right proved to be very important for me," said Kehler.

It led to her now being 8 years cancer free and also having minimal medical bills because the screening caught the disease so early. She feels cutting the screenings would only risks lives and end up costing more.

"Someone that's caught at stage 0 or stage 1 like I was they're going to have minimal costs," said Kehler. "And they're going to lead a better lifestyle because they're not going to have to go through such harsh treatments and that's really the goal isn't it to have better quality of life."

Tobacco control programs are also on the chopping block with the potential cuts.
Kehler feels this too is only going to move the state backwards in getting people to stop smoking, and like with less screenings, create bigger problems down the road.

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