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Weinberg-Gill Legislation To Expand Women’s Access To Critical Breast Cancer Screenings Clears Senate Budget Panel

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Would Make NJ Fourth State In Nation To Enact A Law Providing for Better Early Detection

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and Senator Nia H. Gill (D-Essex, Passaic) to expand access to critical breast screenings for thousands of women who are at high risk of getting breast cancer was approved today by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The legislation (S-792) would require health insurers to cover comprehensive ultrasound breast screenings for women in the event a mammogram demonstrates dense breast tissue – which can prevent detection of a tumor by a mammogram – or if a woman is believed to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to family history.

“Approximately 40 percent of breast cancers in the United States are diagnosed at a later stage, after they have spread to other areas of the body. In a significant number of cases, dense breast tissue is the primary reason the cancer went undetected. The tragedy here is that many at-risk women are doing the right thing and getting regular mammograms,” said Senator Weinberg. “This measure will provide women with access to health care screenings that have proven effective in identifying cancerous tumors that a mammography would otherwise miss, vastly improving early detection and increasing the likelihood for successful treatment.”

According to the advocacy group “Are You Dense, Inc.,” 40 percent of women have dense breast tissue, and many do not even know it. Only one in 10 women learns about breast density from their physician, which can prove tragic. Mammography misses breast cancer in at least 40 percent of women with dense breast tissue.

“Too often, mammography alone fails to detect breast cancer in women with dense breast tissue,” said Senator Gill. “Comprehensive ultrasound breast screening is a more thorough and accurate way to determine the existence of cancer, and better ensures that women who are at higher risk are protected. By requiring insurers to cover these more effective and complete breast screenings, we will improve early detection of breast cancer for thousands of women for whom a mammogram would potentially fail to identify the existence of a lump or tumor.”

The bill would require mammogram reports to contain information on breast density, based on the Breast Imaging Reporting and Data System established by the American College of Radiology. When applicable, the bill would require the mammography report to include a notice to the woman regarding the availability of supplementary screening tests for breast density, and that the report of the mammography results would be sent to her physician. New Jersey would become the fourth state in the nation to enact such a law, following Connecticut, Texas and Virginia.

The committee approved the bill by a vote of 12-0. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote.