A proposed law would require health providers to order concurrent mammograms and ultrasounds for women who have a family history or other risk factors of breast cancer.

The bill would also require health insurers to cover the bilateral screenings for patients who have certain risk factors.

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Hudson, whose mother died of breast cancer, said she was inspired to introduce the legislation after she was looking through Facebook one night and saw a posting from a constituent who is a strong advocate for other women and breast cancer.

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Quijano said the woman had a combo prescription from her doctor for both a regular mammogram and a 3D mammogram for women with dense breast tissue. Even with a prescription, she said it was so difficult to get both tests at the same time. What should have taken an hour for these routine tests, took nearly four hours because there were problems with the insurance provider.

Also, during COVID-19, so many women did not get their mammograms done. Many delayed it. Certain institutions even suspended their screening process. As a result, the Mayo Clinic reported there was a 50% drop in new diagnoses of breast cancer.

It's possible a woman might not come back quickly to get that second test. If a woman has breast cancer and she doesn't know it, it's going to continue to grow.

"I thought it was important to empower women to get the test that they need done when they have a history of breast cancer in their family," Quijano said.

Why should any woman have to fight to get concurrent mammograms and ultrasounds when her doctor says it's medically necessary? This is a question that Quijano has pondered.

"With breast cancer being the second leading cause of death among women each year, it is vital that our healthcare system provide bilateral ultrasounds to women receiving mammograms," said state Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Mercer, who is co-sponsoring the bill.

Health insurers are required to provide coverage for an annual mammogram for women over 40 and for women under 40 with a history of breast cancer. Under this proposal, if a woman has risk factors or if a woman has a family member who died from breast cancer, she would be able to have both tests done at the same time.

"Remember, time is not our friend with cancer. If you don't get diagnosed and treated timely, it only gets worse. It never gets better," she added.

Quijano said she believes catching breast cancer early can save the health insurance companies money and it can save lives. She thinks this is something both sides can agree on.

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