Every year, an estimated 4,200 Hoosier women are diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in our state.
Last month, Whitley County native Carrie Barcus shared her heroic battle with breast cancer in The Journal Gazette. Carrie came to my office in Fort Wayne last year with her story about how a mammography cannot detect a tumor in a woman who has dense breast tissue. She herself had this problem, and it was only through her perseverance and the fact that she was a nurse that allowed her to finally obtain an ultrasound, which unfortunately showed that she did indeed have a tumor.
I facilitated a meeting at the State House with Sen. Pat Miller, our Senate Health Committee chair. Sen. Miller and I collaborated on Senate Enrolled Act 414 , which took effect July 1, requiring insurance companies to provide women who have dense breast tissue with an alternative to a mammogram. Hopefully, because of Carrie Barcus’ courage and tenacity, this new law will help reduce the number of undiagnosed breast tumors and increase the rate of survival for Hoosier women who suffer from breast cancer.
SEA 414 also calls on Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board to establish a public education program and standards for annual screenings for these women. We hope that similar legislation will be replicated throughout the country so women all across America will have the same type of protection.
Doctors recommend annual mammograms for women over age 40 to screen for breast cancer. However, for the 50 percent of women with high-density breast tissue, ultrasounds and MRIs are imperative second steps in medical screenings.
Health-care providers are asked to notify women who have high-density breast tissue and may require specialized indicators. I encourage Hoosiers to be proactive in their education on this matter by asking their doctors about the risks and signs.
As medical technology advances, we must take advantage of it in order to improve and save Hoosier lives. Lawmakers rely on medical professionals to keep us up to date and informed on arising issues.
If you have important health-related experiences or if you work in the medical field, state leaders need your input. SEA 414 is a positive step for Hoosier health, but we must do more to put an end to the nearly 13,000 annual cancer deaths in Indiana. As always, please contact me with your ideas by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov or by phone at 800-382-9467.