New legislation in New York State is directing large group insurers to cover medically necessary mammograms for women between the ages of 35 and 39.
Signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo last week, the aim of Shannon’s law is to provide access for breast cancer screenings to women under the age of 40, and to enhance rates of early detection and diagnosis.
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"By signing this legislation, we are taking another step toward breaking down barriers to breast cancer screening and improving access to health care for all women in New York," said Cuomo in a statement.
The law in question is named after Shannon Saturno of Babylon, Long Island, who passed away from breast cancer at 31 following a three year battle.
Saturno’s diagnosis at 28 is one of more than 12,000 cases of breast cancer in women under 40 that are detected each year. Many are often already in the late stages when diagnosed, and face more aggressive forms of cancer. Despite these facts, many insurance companies only cover a woman’s annual mammogram when she is 40 or over.
"Far too many young women have lost their lives to breast cancer because of a late diagnosis. This disease impacts women, young and old, which is why expanding coverage for mammograms is so important,” said Assembly member Kimberly Jean-Pierre in statement. “Lowering the age of covered annual mammogram screenings will ensure women can take action before it's too late. Shannon's Law is long overdue, and I'm grateful to Governor Cuomo for his support."
The passage of Shannon’s law follows that of nationwide breast density legislation earlier this year, which requires mammographers to include in reports if a patient has dense breast tissue and what risks the condition carries, so that women and their physicians can take necessary precautions to ensure they are cancer free.
“The legal mandate is meant to educate women regarding dense breasts and explain that mammography is less sensitive in the denser breast categories. The denser the breast tissue, the more difficult it is to identify a small mass that may be cancerous, as it may hide in the dense background,” Dr. Stamatia Destounis, a clinical professor and managing partner at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care center, told HCB News at the time. “It is also meant to inform the health care providers that will get questions regarding this topic from their patients.”