Cancer

A new health care debate, Donald Trump, and a spike in breast cancer deaths

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the Senate chamber on Thursday after announcing the release of the Republicans’ health care bill which represents the party’s long-awaited attempt to scuttle much of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Just in time for the renewed, fast-tempo debate over health care in Washington, public health researchers at Georgia State University have produced a pair of studies that help underline just what’s at stake.

The more provocative of the two papers has intriguing national implications: In large swaths of the United States, swing areas that handed the presidency to Donald Trump last year, a white woman’s chances of dying from breast cancer have skyrocketed.

One common factor linking politics and women’s health is suggested but unproven: a fatalistic despair that better times will ever come.

First, some background.

After much secrecy, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday unveiled the Senate version of the Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. There are multiple differences that are still being analyzed, but the Senate plan walks much the same path as the one passed by House Republicans in May.

Protections for those with pre-existing conditions would be weakened. Government-assisted coverage for those with lower incomes would shrink and eventually be subject to a cap.

Obamacare had put us on the road to health care as a right, paid for by the wealthy. The current Republican effort would return us closer to the status quo ante. A safety net would remain in place to help the most abjectly poor, but the rest of us would again have to prove ourselves economically worthy of good health.

Rural Georgia would continue to be a desert of health care, and thus economic development. Earl Rogers, a good Republican and president of the Georgia Hospital Association, referred to the proposed Senate cuts to Medicaid as “devastating.”

Which brings us to that first study by GSU’s School of Public Health. A team led by Lia Scott has discovered a cluster of an aggressive form of breast cancer in South Georgia. It’s one of four in the nation. Inflammatory breast cancer can’t be detected through mammograms and thus is often caught only in its late stages.

African-American women are at greater risk. Poverty may lie at the root of the situation. In that sense, the cluster fits a well-worn stereotype of breast cancer victims.

It is the second GSU study that shatters the breast cancer cliché. Lee Rivers Mobley, the lead author, also had a hand in…