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Introduction of Diagnostic and Supplemental Imaging Legislation Would Benefit Thousands of North Carolinians

Susan G. Komen Commends Bill Introduction; Urges Quick Passage

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, applauds Representative Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), Representative Mary Belk (D-Mecklenburg), Representative Donna McDowell White (R-Johnston) and Representative Becky Carney (D-Mecklenburg) for working with Komen to introduce legislation that would remove financial barriers to imaging that can rule out breast cancer or confirm the need for a biopsy. In 2023, more than 10,730 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 1,450 will die of the disease in North Carolina alone.

“This legislation can make an immediate impact for thousands of people who require diagnostic or supplemental breast imaging yet are unable to afford it and often forego the tests,” said Molly Guthrie, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Susan G. Komen. “Everyone should be able to access the care they need and afford it, especially when it could mean the difference between a person’s life and death.”

HB 560 would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging (such as a MRI, ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram) when medically necessary. These exams can be extremely expensive and require people to pay high out-of-pocket costs – all before more expensive treatment even begins.

Komen-commissioned study found the costs to patients range from $234 for a diagnostic mammogram to more than $1,021 for a breast MRI. The cost of the test prevents individuals in North Carolina from getting the imaging they require, making it difficult to detect their breast cancer as early as possible. 

“As a survivor of breast cancer, I cannot describe the profound sense of relief I feel every 12 months when I find out the results of my screening exam were negative for cancer. Women who cannot afford proper diagnostic testing are living in constant fear they will relapse or that they already have cancer,” said Rep. Belk. “This bill recognizes that diagnostic screening not only brings peace of mind, but saves lives by catching cancer as soon as possible.”

An estimated 16 percent of people who receive annual screening mammograms nationwide get called back for diagnostic imaging. Additionally, these tests are often recommended for those who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer and for some individuals who are considered at high-risk for breast cancer, making their out-of-pocket costs particularly burdensome to those individuals.

“We are all aware of the challenging costs of healthcare that our citizens face every day and that’s why I am one of the sponsors of this important legislation,” said Rep. McDowell White.  “As a Registered Nurse, I have personally worked with patients who endured the mental and financial stress of the testing that is required for cancer treatments, and this bill will eliminate part of that stress for thousands in our state.”

Added Rep. Lambeth, “I am honored to participate with my colleagues in supporting legislation that encourages an increase in needed diagnostic imaging services and removes any barriers related to out of pocket co-payments. This legislation is good public policy and will save lives as a result.” 

The use of breast cancer screening and follow-up diagnostics have led to significant increases in the early detection of breast cancer in the past 30 years. However, this is not true across all demographics. Evidence shows that Black and Hispanic breast cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, perhaps due to delays in follow-up imaging after abnormal findings on an annual mammogram. More diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging is likely going to be needed due to “missed” breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warn that missed mammograms could lead to more later-stage breast cancer diagnoses, once detected, so it is critically important that we increase access to affordable tests for those who medically require it.