Bill aims to ex­pand cov­er­age of new breast cancer screen­ing tech­nol­ogy,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By For­rest Mil­burn fmil­burn@states­man.com

Austin res­i­dent Anne Hunt gets a mam­mo­gram ev­ery year, and she didn’t hes­i­tate to pay ex­tra for a more de­tailed 3D scan that can de­tect cancer in its ear­lier stages last year, though Texas in­sur­ers typ­i­cally don’t cover the cost.

The $60 fee for the imag­ing — not cov­ered by Hunt’s in­surance — was “worth ev­ery penny,” she says. But that cost could put the tech­nol­ogy out of reach for some Texas women, re­duc­ing their chances of early de­tec­tion.

“Your qual­ity of life is at risk,” Hunt said. “If you can catch it early and take care of it, then you don’t have to look in the rear-view mir­ror any­more.”

On Tues­day, Hunt and a group of med­i­cal ex­perts rolled up to the Capi­tol in a bus to show­case the ben­e­fits of 3D mam­mog­ra­phy tech­nol­ogy, as leg­is­la­tors con­sider ways to make the tech­nol­ogy more ac­ces­si­ble.

Au­thored by state Rep. Sen­fro­nia Thomp­son, D-Hous­ton, House Bill 1036 would man­date Texas health in­surance com­pa­nies cover the costs of 3D mam­mo­grams un­der their health care plans. Cur­rently, fed­eral law man­dates cov­er­age of tra­di­tional 2D mam­mo­grams, but not all Texas plans cover the pro­ce­dure, leav­ing many women to pay the $50 to $100 out of pocket.

“If 3D imag­ing had been avail­able when I had mine, then they would have caught it sooner,” said Thomp­son, a breast cancer sur­vivor her­self. “If tech­nol­ogy is avail­able to save more women from re­ceiv­ing the dev­as­tat­ing di­ag­no­sis of breast cancer — no­body wants to hear ‘you got cancer’ — it ought to be avail­able.”

Dr. Stephen Rose, a ra­di­ol­o­gist in Austin and an ex­pert in 3D mam­mo­grams, said the tra­di­tional tech­nol­ogy only takes a sta­tion­ary, 2D im­age from the top an­gle of a pa­tient’s breasts. The newer tech­nol­ogy al­lows doc­tors to see more de­tailed im­ages and a greater con­trast be­tween higher and lower den­sity masses.

With this ad­van­tage, doc­tors have been able to de­tect smaller can­cers in ear­lier stages, in­creas­ing the num­ber of de­tec­tions by 54 per­cent and re­duc­ing the num­ber of false di­ag­noses by 37 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Rose’s re­search, which has been fea­tured in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Roentgenol­ogy, and in Ap­plied Ra­di­ol­ogy.

In 2010, Rose played a key role in seek­ing the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ap­proval for the 3D mam­mo­grams by pre­sent­ing one of his med­i­cal case stud­ies of the first pa­tient di­ag­nosed with breast cancer us­ing the tech­nol­ogy. There, he pointed out how this spe­cific pa­tient, like many oth­ers, was given a false neg­a­tive when us­ing the tra­di­tional imag­ing.

“It’s just a bet­ter mam­mo­gram,” Rose said. “Whether you’re young or old, or if you have dense or do not have dense breast tis­sue — we im­prove our met­rics in ev­ery cat­e­gory.”

States such as Penn­syl­va­nia, Illi­nois and New York have ap­proved man­dates sim­i­lar to HB 1036, while Arkansas’ leg­is­la­ture is con­sid­er­ing one later this week.

A bi­par­ti­san group of five leg­is­la­tors have signed on as co-au­thors of HB 1036, which is cur­rently await­ing a hear­ing in the House In­surance Com­mit­tee ex­pected in the next few weeks.

“I want to ex­tend ev­ery op­por­tu­nity I pos­si­bly can to women to be screened, and if they do have cancer, then we’ll catch it in the very early stages,” Thomp­son said. “Just the peace of mind of know­ing that if you have it, you’ve got ac­cess to good treat­ment is so im­por­tant.”

JAY JANNER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

House Bill 1036 would man­date Texas health in­surance com­pa­nies cover the costs of 3D mam­mo­grams un­der their health care plans. The tech­nol­ogy was show­cased on March 21 at the Capi­tol.

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