Introduction of Diagnostic and Supplemental Imaging Legislation Could Benefit Thousands of Washingtonians

Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization, applauds Senator Lynda Wilson (R-Vancouver) and Representative Amy Walen (D-Kirkland) for working with Komen to introduce legislation that would remove financial barriers to imaging that can rule out breast cancer or confirm the need for a biopsy. In 2023, more than 7,050 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer and more than 960 will die of the disease.

“This legislation can make an immediate impact for thousands of people who require diagnostic or supplemental breast imaging yet are unable to afford it and often forego the tests,” said Molly Guthrie, Vice President of Policy and Advocacy at Susan G. Komen. “Everyone should be able to access the care they need and afford it, especially when it could mean the difference between a person’s life and death.”

SB 5396 and HB 1261, introduced by Sen. Wilson and Rep. Walen, would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging (such as an MRI, ultrasound, diagnostic mammogram) when medically necessary. These exams can be extremely expensive and require people to pay high out-of-pocket costs – all before more expensive treatment even begins.

“I’m living proof of the value of detecting breast cancer early, and the importance of following up on a mammogram. This legislation would remove a barrier many women face when they have reason to seek advanced imaging,” said Sen. Wilson, whose openness about her own treatment during the 2019 legislative session inspired legislators and staff to wear pink weekly, promoting awareness of the need for mammograms and self-exams.

Komen-commissioned study found the costs to patients range from $234 for a diagnostic mammogram to more than $1,021 for a breast MRI. The cost of the test prevents individuals in Missouri from getting the imaging they require, making it difficult to detect their breast cancer as early as possible.

“Access to medically necessary imaging remains the best way to prevent breast cancer fatalities,” said Rep. Walen. “My mother left young kids alone when she passed from breast cancer and as a survivor myself, the worst part for our family was not knowing what we were facing. This legislation will save lives.”

An estimated 16 percent of people who receive annual screening mammograms nationwide get called back for diagnostic imaging. Additionally, these tests are often recommended for those who have previously been diagnosed with breast cancer and for some individuals who are considered at high-risk for breast cancer, making their out-of-pocket costs particularly burdensome to those individuals.

The use of breast cancer screening and follow-up diagnostics have led to significant increases in the early detection of breast cancer in the past 30 years. However, this is not true across all demographics. Evidence shows that Black and Hispanic breast cancer patients tend to be diagnosed at a later stage, perhaps due to delays in follow-up imaging after abnormal findings on an annual mammogram.

More diagnostic and supplemental breast imaging is likely going to be needed due to “missed” breast cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warn that missed mammograms could lead to more later-stage breast cancer diagnoses, once detected, so it is critically important that we increase access to affordable tests to those who medically require it.