WEST HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Though insurance companies will pay for breast cancer screenings for women who are in their 40s and older, younger women who want to be screened may have to pay out of their pockets. Some who are at risk for developing breast cancer may be covered, but others may not be.
Jan Juris of West Haven is trying to change that. Her daughter, Lisa, lost her battle with breast cancer five years ago, leaving behind her fiancé and two little boys.
“To lose their mom at that early age is horrendous,” said Juris.
Lisa was only 32 years old when she was diagnosed, much younger than most women are when they first start getting screened for the disease. By the time Lisa’s doctor found her lump it was already stage 3. It had also spread to her lymph nodes. Lisa died three years later, despite rounds of aggressive radiation and chemotherapy.
“Everybody loved Lisa,” said Juris. “She was just so vibrant and it’s not real. It’s still not real to me.”
Juris says if young women got ultrasounds or mammograms at their annual checkups her daughter might still be alive today. Now her mission is to get insurance companies to cover tests like these. She has written to her leaders – from President Obama to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.
“These are issues of life and death and they should be taken very, very seriously,” said DeLauro.
DeLauro says part of the problem is that there’s no agreement between cancer organizations and the medical profession on when exactly women need to start screenings. The recommendations sometimes change too.
DeLauro is also a cancer survivor. She thinks there needs to be more of a focus on prevention.
“It was by luck because it was first stage ovarian cancer,” she said. “No one should survive by luck.”
DeLauro pushed for an amendment to the 2016 U.S. spending bill, which was passed. It guarantees coverage for mammograms for women age 40 and older through 2018. Though it is a step in the right direction, Juris wants legislation that focuses specifically on women even younger.
“She would’ve been here today,” said Juris. “I’m doing this for my daughter so her death was not in vain.”
The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast cancer screenings starting at age 45 and then switching to every other year at age 55 for women at average risk. Women younger than that may have to ask to be screened. Their insurance may not cover the cost.