Sequestration’s Impact on the Cancer Community



You may have repeatedly heard this word used by the media and policy makers over the last several months. What does it mean, and more importantly, what does it mean to the cancer community?

Sequestration refers to automatic, across-the-board cuts to spending and is a process used by Congress to reduce the federal deficit. Some lawmakers, critical of the approach, have compared it to using a metal cleaver rather than a scalpel because the cuts are crude, sweeping and unfocused rather than deliberate and targeted. The consequences are severe and some can be unintended. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, sequestration generates automatic cuts in spending for each of nine years, FY 2013-2021, totaling $1.2 trillion. Sequestration was originally scheduled to take effect on January 2, 2013; however, Congress passed legislation to delay the start for two months to March 1, less than a week away.

Under sequestration, federal funding for life saving cancer prevention programs and research will be drastically cut. Funding for federal cancer programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimated to fall by $18 million in a single year. What does this really mean? To start, fewer prevention screenings for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer. Because we know that screenings save lives, any reduction in funding could mean an increase in cancer mortality. Experts predict that sequestration cuts could result in 32,000 fewer screenings for women through the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. Estimated reductions in screenings in your state are shown in the chart below.


Funding for other cancer initiatives at the CDC would also be in jeopardy. For example, the CDC currently supports registries across the nation, collecting data on 96% of the U.S. population. A loss of support for the registries means a loss of important information about the rate of cancer and who it is affecting. The CDC supports programs that help increase access to cancer care, too. The LIVESTRONG Foundation, with assistance from the CDC, operates a Promotores Training Program which helps the Hispanic/Latino community find cancer resources. Cuts in federal funding could jeopardize the scope of programs like this one.
Cancer research at the National Institutes of Health would be at risk under sequestration. Estimates show that NIH could suffer a $1.5 billion reduction (5.1 percent) under sequestration, including more than a $250 million reduction in cancer research funding.


Continuous funding for cancer research is paramount to our long-term success of fighting the disease. If funding for cancer research is not protected and sustained, decades of progress could potentially be lost.

What can you do?
The LIVESTRONG Foundation will continue to speak with members of Congress about the devastating impact of funding cuts to cancer prevention and research, and we encourage you to do the same. To identify your members of Congress and for their contact information, click here.

While we share in the goal of addressing the federal deficit, across the board cuts to discretionary spending (including cancer programs) is short sighted and will not achieve the necessary long term savings to address the nation’s fiscal crisis. In fact, health discretionary spending was only 1.7 percent of federal spending in 2011, compared to entitlement programs which comprise 56 percent. Even if the entire discretionary budget were eliminated, the savings would still not be enough to balance the federal budget.

Breakdown of Federal Outlays, FY 2011

If you have any questions about the LIVESTRONG Foundation’s advocacy initiatives or wish to participate in important events throughout the year, please email


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  2. Beth Battles says:

    Please support this effort through Livestrong. I previously contacted all of Oklahoma’s senators who have to date made promises about looking into this issue but have not done anything in fact to help cancer patients. We can only win this fight by exerting pressure through the various cancer advocacy organizations.

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