Susan G. Komen, Planned Parenthood and the Cost of Breast Cancer

Susan G. Komen, Planned Parenthood and the Cost of Breast Cancer

The Susan G. Komen Foundation squeezed through a tight spot.

Their Tuesday announcement that they would withdraw breast cancer screening funding from Planned Parenthood sparked a firestorm of political debate—so they reversed the decision on Friday.

Sensation aside, that means the breast cancer screenings and mammograms that were being funded are no longer at risk. How much money will that save us in the long run?

Why Did They Do It?

Before we answer that, a little backstory: The cut in funding was largely regarded as an anti-abortion statement, as Planned Parenthood is perhaps most infamous for that service. But the foundation claimed their decision wasn't nearly so politically charged, insisting that funds were being reallocated according to new guidelines dictating how grantees are selected.

The move was contested and supported with—what else?—money. Donations to the Komen foundation in support of their decision to defund Planned Parenthood have doubled, while Planned Parenthood has amassed nearly enough in donations to make up for the lost grant (which supplied about $700,000, and partially funded 750,000 mammograms in 2011).

But there was a twist! Due to the massive backlash—even New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged a $250,000 matching donation to Planned Parenthood—the foundation reversed its stance. It tweeted, "We want to apologize for recent decisions that cast doubt upon our commitment to our mission of saving women’s lives." Planned Parenthood will keep its grant.

How Much Money Do Those Breast Cancer Screenings Save Us?

Let's go ahead and sidestep both the political implications and fervent press coverage for a quick thought: Komen or not, Planned Parenthood or not, breast cancer screening is a matter of preventative healthcare, and it saves us a lot of money.

The cost of clinical breast exams (done by a medical professional) and mammograms varies depending on insurance provider, state and facility, but one thing is for sure: They're much, much cheaper than treating breast cancer, the costs of which can easily top $50,000.

It's projected that cancer care costs in the United States will reach at least $158 billion by 2020 (and as high as $207 billion), as they've been steadily increasing since they hit $104 billion in 2006. Within those figures, the largest amount of money is allocated to breast cancer costs ... and that's even with subsidized screenings. If women's health care providers were unable to provide as many screenings, who knows how much we'd have to pay.

Besides the staggering costs of cancer treatment, there's another factor to consider: the pricelessness of good health.

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