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Breast cancer screenings covered

DeKALB – Doris Garrett, a volunteer with Peoria-based Susan G. Komen Foundation and a breast cancer survivor, lauded Illinois legislators Tuesday and said a new law could save the lives of women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Women in Illinois in need of additional mammograms to test for breast cancer soon will be able to take those tests without paying out of pocket, thanks to Senate Bill 162 signed Monday by Gov. JB Pritzker at the Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital.

“As a breast cancer survivor, I can tell you that your support such as this means so much to those whose lives have been changed by such a diagnosis,” Garrett, a volunteer with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, said Monday. “It’s legislation and bills such as this that will help Komen achieve its bold goal of reducing the number of breast cancer deaths by 50% for all women in the United States by 2026.”

The site of the signing soon will be the new $4.2 million Breast Health Center at the hospital – set to open Oct. 1 – and will ensure patients have better access to cancer screenings, regardless of income level or socioeconomic background.

The new bill mandates insurance companies cover diagnostic mammograms for patients when the tests are deemed necessary by a licensed medical professional. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.

Current law does not require additional screenings beyond an annual mammogram to be covered by insurance, so additional tests that could diagnose breast cancer often are out of reach for those with limited incomes, Pritzker said.

“As governor, I want to make sure that Illinois will always affirm the rights of individuals to make the most personal and fundamental decisions of their lives, no matter their income level, their race, their ethnicity or their religion,” Pritzker said. “Too often women from underserved communities don’t have the same access to proper medical diagnostics or treatment.”

The Breast Health Center will help DeKalb County combat low breast cancer screening numbers, hospital staff have said. Local breast cancer screening rates have fallen below the state and national average. DeKalb County’s breast cancer screening rate is 65%. The statewide average is 78%, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About 237,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and the disease claims about 41,000 lives each year, according to the CDC. The same data shows 2,100 men are diagnosed, and 450 die each year.

Early detection of breast cancer can greatly increase survivability, as opposed to finding it after it has spread to other areas of the body, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Pritzker said the bill was passed in part because of bipartisan support in Springfield.

He said that state Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, was a lead co-sponsor on the bill, along with state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora.

“As a husband to my wife and a father to a college-aged daughter, women’s health is a kitchen table issue in our house,” Keicher said. “Working to improve vital health care for women is a priority for all of us.”

Holmes said annual mammograms already are covered by insurance companies, but any additional screenings that doctors order are not.

She said that doctors often will call the patient back for an additional mammogram, ultrasound or MRI because the initial test was unclear or because doctors thought it warranted a second look.

“This is so important, because this is the point where you may find something that needs further medical attention,” Holmes said. “And it’s imperative as we know with any form of cancer, the sooner it is caught and the sooner the treatment is started, the quicker you have a chance of beating it.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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