Chances Are at Least Two Women Per Year May Die Because Planned Parenthood Will Get Komen Funds


I read an article1 on which got me wondering, If SGK pulled PP’s funding, how many more women would die of breast cancer? The consequences, according to the Interwebs, would be dire.

However, the numbers indicate that SGK’s funding of PP’s clinical breast exams might be resulting in more cancer deaths than if SGK were funding mammograms directly.

Assume that PP used all of SGK’s money for breast cancer screenings and mammograms over the past five years. Also assume that PP got an average of $650,000 per year for those five years. (I cannot find actual figures.)

Now let’s do the math.

  • $650,000*5 = $3,250,000.

  • Mammograms funded by SGK through PP in those five years: 6,400.1

  • Total SGK funding used for mammograms (via pass-through grants to PP) at a high-end cost of $125 per mammogram2: 6,400*$125 = $800,000

  • Remaining funds used for clinical breast exams (CBEs) at PP: $3,250,000-$800,000 = $2,450,000

  • Breast cancer screenings performed by PP in the past five years: 170,0001

  • Cost per CBE performed by PP: $2,450,000/170,000 = about $15.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) can’t find evidence that the CBE is effective. Only mammograms have been proven to be effective.3 About CBE’s, PP says this:

Dr. Vanessa Cullins, a vice president with Planned Parenthood Federation of America, defended its use of clinical breast exams. The exam, in which a doctor feels the breast for lumps, is “a good tool” when followed with mammograms and other tests as needed, she said.1 (emphasis added)

Clearly, funding of CBEs is diverting resources from more effective exams, but how many?

More math:

  • Amount of money spent on CBEs performed by PP: $2,450,000.

  • Number of mammograms which could have been performed with that money (at a higher-than-average cost of $125 per mammogram): $2,450,000/$125 = 19,600.

If the SGK money had been used for mammograms in the last five years:

  • Number of women per year, ages 39-49, whose lives might have been saved: 19,600/1,904/5 = 2.4

  • Number of women per year, ages 50-59, whose lives might have been saved: 19,600/1,339/5 = 3.

  • Number of women per year, ages 60-69, whose lives might have been saved: 19,600/377/5 = 10.

So if you were in the driver’s seat at SGK, which would you choose, an unproven use of your money, or an effective use which is proven to save lives? Would you choose to defund PP, too?

The Interwebs disagree with you.

One final note: Outside of these numbers, it’s entirely possible that the backlash against SGK could have cost SGK more funding than the funding lost (and subsequently made up) by PP. The effect of SGK’s loss is also calculable in human terms. But until SGK pulls funding from PP and we can see the cost to SGK’s fundraising, we won’t know that effect.

1 Surprises in Komen-Planned Parenthood dustup: How cancer screening is done and who pays for it,

2 How Much Does a Mammogram Cost?,

3 Screening for Breast Cancer, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

4 Screening for Breast Cancer An Update for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, Table 1, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

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