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Susan G. Komen® Commends Introduction of Diagnostic Imaging Legislation in North Carolina

Urges Bipartisan Support and Swift Passage, Allowing Women Access to Life-Saving Diagnostic Exams

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, applauds Representative Donny Lambeth (R – Forsyth), Representative Donna McDowell White (R – Johnston), Representative Mary Belk (D – Mecklenburg), and Representative Becky Carney (D – Mecklenburg) for their leadership on vitally important diagnostic breast imaging legislation. HB 703 would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for medically-necessary diagnostic breast imaging following an abnormal mammogram result or other medically-necessary purpose.

“This legislation is an important step forward for women in North Carolina,” said Molly Guthrie, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at Susan G. Komen. “We see first-hand that women face hundreds to thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for needed diagnostic imaging. As a result, many women do not seek care until the cancer has spread – making it deadlier and more expensive to treat. A woman should not have to choose between paying her electric bill or getting a medically-necessary ultrasound. This life-saving legislation will ensure timely access to diagnosis and treatment.”

Millions of women throughout the United States can access free, preventive screening mammography under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, if the results of a mammogram reveal an abnormality, follow-up diagnostic exams (such as an MRI, ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram) are needed to determine if the patient has breast cancer. Those exams can be extremely expensive and require high out-of-pocket costs – all before treatment even begins. An estimated 12 percent of patients who receive annual screening mammograms get called back for diagnostic imaging. In North Carolina, 9,850 women are estimated to be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021 and 1,470 will die of the disease this year alone. 

“My triple negative breast cancer was diagnosed by diagnostic imaging mammography. Luckily, my cancer was caught early. I had a lumpectomy a few weeks after the diagnosis followed by chemotherapy and radiation. I am happy to say I’ve had no signs of cancer for three years,” said bill sponsor, Representative Carney. “I am fortunate to have insurance and the means to pay out-of-pocket, but that is not the case for many patients. I am pleased to join my fellow lawmakers in sponsoring this vitally important legislation to eliminate these exorbitant out-of-pocket costs. All women should have access to health care coverage, and they should never have to put their health on hold because they can’t afford to go to the doctor.”

A Komen-commissioned study found the costs to patients for diagnostic tests range from $234 for a diagnostic mammogram to $1,021 for a breast MRI. Out-of-pocket costs are particularly burdensome to those who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer, as diagnostic tests are often recommended rather than traditional screening mammography.

“As a breast cancer survivor myself, I have experienced the fear and devastation of being told that you have a life-threatening disease. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like for a man or woman not to be able to afford the diagnostic testing that is required to rule out or diagnose breast cancer,” said bill sponsor, Representative Belk. “We know that the earlier cancer is detected, the better the prognosis – not to mention the huge cost-savings of an early diagnosis versus a late-stage one. I am honored to sponsor this legislation, which will ensure that patients can access the lifesaving diagnostic imaging they need.”