Oklahoma is lagging behind in the fight against cancer, a report released Thursday from a cancer advocacy group shows.
A report released Thursday from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network outlined where each state succeeds and fails at preventing cancer and implementing policies that will better serve cancer patients.
Overall, Oklahoma did not perform well in the report, cited for its below-average cigarette excise tax rate; a lack of a 100 percent smoke-free state law; a lack of physical education time requirements in schools; limited— if any— state tanning laws; and not allocating more money to cancer screening programs, among other things.
Oklahoma stood out as one of the few states that scored poorly in the availability of palliative care. Palliative care programs are in less than 38 percent of Oklahoma’s hospitals, according to the cancer advocacy group.
Dawn Marks, government relations director at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network for Oklahoma, said palliative care provides a patient-centered approach to cancer care and can improve the quality of life for patients and their families, resulting in better health outcomes and lower costs.
“I think we have some medical professionals who are probably doing some of this or a lot of this, but I think raising awareness is important, and improving access to palliative care so all people in the state have access, and then boosting clinical skills through some training and that sort of thing,” Marks said.
Oklahoma also was cited in the report for not expanding its Medicaid program, a key element of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
If the program were expanded, an estimated 144,000 low-income adult Oklahomans and families could enroll in Medicaid, according to the report.
State leaders have said Oklahoma will not expand Medicaid, for the program would be too costly to expand and leaders also don’t trust the federal government to provide the funding promised for the expansion.
However, the American Cancer Society’s advocacy group argues in its report that: “providing low-income adults and families access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage is critical in the fight against cancer. Governors and lawmakers have the opportunity to provide millions of Americans health care coverage to help detect cancers early, when treatment is more effective and less costly, and to save lives by preventing some cancers from occurring in the first place.”
The Cancer Action Network also cites Oklahoma for not only choosing not to expand Medicaid but also reducing funding for the state’s breast and cervical cancer screening programs.
This program in Oklahoma provides screenings to low-income women who would have likely qualified for Medicaid under the expansion and have relied on the cancer screening program.
Three out of 10 women aged 50 years and older in Oklahoma reported not having a mammogram over the past two years, a larger percentage than reported in the U.S. Also, about 30 percent of breast cancers in Oklahoma women are diagnosed at late stage, which is a larger percentage of cases than the national average of 23 percent, according to data from the state Health Department.
One area of the report where Oklahoma performed well was related to money allocated for prevention programs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that Oklahoma spend $42.3 million in funding for tobacco prevention and control measures. The report notes that the state has the sixth-highest funding allocated, spending $22.7 million, nearly 54 percent of the CDC recommendation.