A bill to help breast cancer patients and, potentially, reduce mortality rates in New Mexico awaits a hearing in the current legislative session. The bill, Breast Exam Health Coverage, or HB 27, would end cost-sharing costs for individuals who require additional breast imaging to detect breast cancer according to Rachel Birch, the director of State Policy and Advocacy for Susan G. Komen, a breast cancer research and advocacy organization. Rep. Christine Chandler, D-Los Alamos, is sponsoring the bill. Chandler said by email that “early detection is key to treating breast cancer.”
“Unfortunately, right now patients who are at higher risk or need follow-up tests after an abnormal mammogram often face out-of-pocket costs that are extremely burdensome or prohibitive, even with commercial insurance. By eliminating those costs, we can make it easier for patients to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, which means more New Mexicans will have access to lifesaving care,” Chandler said.
A University of New Mexico Cancer Center oncologist said she and other providers are seeing an increase in the amount of people diagnosed with breast cancer in the state. Dr. Ursa Brown-Glaberman, medical oncologist at the UNM Cancer Comprehensive Center, said the increase in cancer diagnosis began in fall of 2020. She said providers “saw what we expected; a whole lot of cancer out there not being detected.”
“As clinicians, we saw a huge wave of diagnosis. We were incredibly busy [in the] fall [of 2020] and spring [of 2021] and there were more patients than we normally see with new breast cancers. We saw women who skipped mammograms for a year.
Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed types of cancer for women in New Mexico and cancer experts urge women to make appointments if they previously delayed mammograms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State Human Services Department Secretary Dr. David Scrase said during Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s press conference on Thursday there was a “serious drop off in preventive services” in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And not all women who should be getting regular mammogram screenings this year have returned to see a health provider. “Stop delaying,” Scrase said. “If you are at high risk, schedule your screening today.”
Women are considered high risk if they have a family history of breast cancer or are over the age of 50.