Protecting the Health of Connecticut Women

July 6, 2011

Hartford, CT – State Senator Len Fasano (R-North Haven), Senate Minority Leader Pro-Tempore, today applauded the state legislature for enacting a bill to require insurance coverage of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for breast cancer screening after a woman is found to have dense breast tissue, or family history of breast cancer.

“This issue is one that hits close to home for so many Connecticut families. We now know through research that conventional mammograms don’t catch every tumor. So, for women with dense breast tissue, who are advised to get additional screenings through MRI – this law will require insurance companies to cover the cost,” said Senator Fasano.

Senator Fasano says the new law, SB10 An Act Concerning Insurance Coverage for Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging, will also allow for additional screenings if a woman is determined to be at increased risk for breast cancer due to family history or prior personal history.

New research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine argues for a more complex approach to mammography based on the following personal risk factors:

  • age,
  • breast density,
  • family history of breast cancer, and
  • personal preference.

Research has shown that 10 percent of women who have cancer in one breast will eventually develop it in the other. The MRI can help women who already have cancer by detecting a hidden tumor in the other breast, enabling them to have both cancers treated at once instead of having to go through treatment all over again when the second tumor is finally detected.

Special equipment including a powerful, ”high-field” magnet and a special breast coil that sends and receives radio frequency signals are used to produce the images. The scan is done with the woman lying on her stomach on a special table with openings that let the breasts rest in wells surrounded by the coil.

The screening procedures for the additional MRI will be consistent with recommendations of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, the American Cancer Society, and American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Senator Fasano said, “Connecticut has been on the forefront of early detection and diagnosis of breast cancer. This new policy will give women with insurance access to a more complete range of screening options.”

Right now in Connecticut current laws governing breast cancer screenings require insurance policies cover baseline mammograms for women age 35 to 39 and yearly mammograms for women age 40 or older. Additionally, laws require coverage for a breast ultrasound if a mammogram demonstrates dense breast tissue, or there is family history of cancer.

Many other states are following Connecticut’s lead. According to Dr. Nancy Cappello – a breast cancer survivor from Woodbury and founder of Are You Dense, Inc. – Texas recently passed a breast density information bill like Connecticut’s. Cappello also says California and New York are among half a dozen other states looking to mirror Connecticut’s health policy regarding breast cancer screening.

Senator Fasano recently accepted the Distinguished Service Award presented to him from the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine. The award recognizes an individual’s exceptional commitment and lasting contribution to the Department’s clinical mission: protecting the health of Connecticut’s mothers and children.

SB 10 An Act Concerning Insurance Coverage for Breast Magnetic Resonance Imaging awaits Governor Malloy’s signature.