Tester: Improve access to breast cancer screening

Senator backs bipartisan bill supporting mammography vans

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is supporting legislation making it easier for Montana women to access life-saving breast cancer screenings.

Tester is co-sponsoring the bipartisan Mobile Mammography Promotion Act.  The bill allows mobile mammography vehicles to buy fuel without paying the federal gas tax, helping health care providers screen more women for breast cancer in rural areas.

Tester said passing the bill is critical to saving lives in Montana, where women say cost, lack of awareness, and limited access are their main reasons for not getting screened.

“Breast cancer is a disease that we can fight with early detection,” Tester said.  “Improving access to screenings will not only lead to more early diagnoses and saved lives, but it will also raise awareness among women in rural areas.”

Tester’s bill, which will provide van operators with gas tax refunds, is modeled after several successful fuel tax exemptions, such as the one for blood banks. 

Tester cited St. Vincent Healthcare’s mammography vehicle in Billings as one potential beneficiary.  In May 2010, when St. Vincent’s vehicle first conducted screenings, it tested 800 women and diagnosed seven with breast cancer.  According to St. Vincent’s, the normal detection rate is one case per 1,000 tests.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in Montana, where it is the second-leading cause of cancer death.  St. Vincent’s and Kalispell’s Winkley’s Women’s Center are the only two organizations in the state that perform life-saving mobile screenings. 

Tester is a staunch advocate for women’s health, particularly increasing access to care in rural areas and raising breast cancer awareness.  He has consistently supported breast cancer research by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.

Tester’s bipartisan bill is co-sponsored by Senators David Vitter (R-La.), Dean Heller (R.-Nev.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Dick Lugar (R.-Ind.).  It is available online HERE.