Kansas and Missouri get low marks for policies that prevent and fight cancer

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Missouri and Kansas are falling short when it comes to policies that prevent and fight cancer, according to a new report from the American Cancer Society's Cancer Action Network. Missouri met zero of the nine benchmarks and Kansas met just two.

Manuela Rodriguez has come to the Duchesne Clinic in Kansas City, Kansas, for a free pap screening for cervical cancer. She gets a free annual mammogram, too.

"It's expensive, so this is a lot of help for me," said Rodriguez.

Both screenings are provided through a state program called Early Detection Works. In Missouri, a similar program is called Show Me Health Women.

"We've had really positive feedback from the patients that have been served," said Lisa Bara, a nurse at Duchesne Clinic.

But the Cancer Action Network says many uninsured and underinsured women aren't aware they can get the free screenings.

"I think there are opportunities for Kansas simply to provide more information," said Reagan Cussimanio, the network's government relations director for Kansas.

Kansas and Missouri received the lowest mark, a red mark, for breast and cervical cancer early detection in the new report from the Cancer Action Network. It looked at states' policies to fight cancer. Both states also had low marks on indoor tanning restrictions and on tobacco measures. Missouri ranks 49th for spending on tobacco prevention.

"Last year, we actually had an increase with the legislature but that got us up to about $100,000 which is well below the millions of dollars CDC says we should be spending," said Stacy Reliford, the network's government relations director for Missouri.

Reliford says more spending on prevention and smoking cessation could reduce the half billion dollars a year the state spends for treatment of cancers and other diseases caused by smoking.

Missouri and Kansas also got low marks for not expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, but lawmakers in both states fear federal funding will phase out, leaving states to fend for themselves.

Kansas did get good marks on its policies for treating pain and for banning smoking in public places.