BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Should younger women get mammograms and should insurance providers have to pay for them?
It’s a question being weighed in Albany, in memory of a young Long Island woman who lost her battle with breast cancer, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday.
Shannon Saturno had everything to live for. She was an athlete, a teacher, married and pregnant, with no family history of cancer. Her life and death at age 31 is now part of a campaign in the state capital.
“Shannon was the All-American girl. She had a smile that lit up a room,” Linda Bnanno said.
And she found out too late that she had breast cancer.
Shannon’s name now graces a bill that requires health coverage for annual mammograms starting at age 35 instead of 40, because, as survivor Bonanno found out, breast cancer doesn’t wait for a certain age.
“I had a mother who passed to breast cancer. I was walking around clueless. I waited,” Bonanno said.
One in 227 women under age 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer, often finding it in advanced stages. Bonanno’s organization “Got Checked?” is pushing for the stalled bill to pass. Senator Monica Martinez is a sponsor.
“We are seeing women diagnosed with breast cancer early on and it’s very important that we provide preventive care instead of being more reactive once it has been diagnosed,” said Martinez, a Democrat who serves Brentwood.
The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force calls the decision to have a routine annual mammogram before 50 an individual one, citing the downsides of over-diagnosis and unnecessary treatment.
But proponents of starting much earlier say radiation doesn’t do the harm it once did.
“Bad radiation is having an x-ray or an exposure to radiation for no reason, so it’s always a risk benefit,” said Robert Day, COO of Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology. “We have reduced the radiation tremendously.”
And if the bill becomes law it will force a conversation between doctors and younger patients as to when the time is right, weighing personal risk factors.
“Being vigilant and being proactive, it’s always the answer,” Bonanno said.
The Got Checked? organizers are heading to Albany next week not only with a promise to Shannon to get the bill passed but they say with the data to support it.
According to the Young Survival Coalition, every year more than 1,000 women under age 40 die from breast cancer. Nearly 80 percent of young women diagnosed with breast cancer find their breast abnormality themselves.