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December 13, 2022 — Legislation aimed at improving breast cancer detection and saving lives was introduced this morning in Washington, DC. The Find It Early Act bill would ensure all health insurance plans cover screening and diagnostic mammograms and breast ultrasounds and MRIs with no cost-sharing. In a press briefing, and follow up news release, U.S. House Representative and House Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro (CT) introduced the Find it Early Act with co-sponsor Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), award-winning journalist Katie Couric and JoAnn Pushkin, and Executive Director of DenseBreast-Info, Inc. (www.densebreast-info.org).
“This bill would ensure all health insurance plans cover screening and diagnostic mammograms and breast ultrasounds and MRIs with no cost-sharing,” said DeLauro.
“Innovation is ineffective if there is not access to it,” said Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), co-sponsor of the bill, whose mother and sister are breast cancer survivors because of early detection.
Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), a breast cancer survivor, and Kai Kahele (HI) joined DeLauro and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA), for the announcement introducing the legislation in the U.S. House Appropriations Committee Hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.
“At DenseBreast-info, we hear from women all the time who find out they have dense breasts and that they would benefit from additional screening, but then discover they have to navigate getting approvals from their insurance providers - and begin a frustrating cycle of phone calls, denials, appeals and more phone calls,” said Pushkin, in discus, Executive Director of Dense Breast–info, Inc. She added: “Dense breasts increase both the risk of developing cancer and of finding that on a mammogram. A digital image such as ultrasound or MRI can dramatically increase cancer detection in dense breast versus mammogram alone. Finding cancer early is critical, because when cancers found in early stage has an estimated 99 percent five-year survival rate. But a later stage may mean a five-year survival rate of under 30 percent.”
Pushkin also credited the commitment of DenseBreast-info.org co-founder, Wendy Berg, MD, PhD, FACR, Chief Scientific Advisor, who is a Professor of Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. She noted that she and Berg knew there had to be a site where women can learn of the resources available, which led to the development of this educational resource, to provide breast density information to both patients and health care professionals.
A breast cancer survivor and long-time advocate, Pushkin continues to lend her expertise to state legislative efforts across the country by mentoring advocates and offering input on bill draft language. She oversaw the first-ever World Dense Breast Day in September to raise awareness about the screening and risk implications of dense breasts and share medically-sourced educational resources. Additionally, Pushkin presented a session on legislative initiatives in November at RSNA 2022, and will be authoring an update article to be published in the Jan/Feb issue of Imaging Technology News/ITN (itnonline.com).
DeLauro and Fitzpatrick previously worked together on the Breast Density and Mammography Reporting Act that direct the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to issue a nationwide reporting standard to require all mammography reports to include an assessment of breast density. This policy change was passed into law in 2019, included in the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, and is expected to be released by the end of this year or early next year.
For her part, Couric, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, 2022, shared comments on the value of early detection, noting, in part: “When patients are properly informed, they often forego additional testing like ultrasound or MRI because they cannot afford it. This helps level the playing field for women who need and deserve thorough breast cancer screening. Cancer is most treatable when caught in its earliest stages. Early detection is especially true of breast cancer. I think everyone, like me, needs and deserves access to the technology that exists now that has the potential to save lives. The Find It Early Act ensures every woman in every state across the nation will have access to the best breast screening technology. Most importantly, as Rep. DeLauro said, it will save lives, and what’s more important than that?”