BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Alabama Senator Katie Britt is joining New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen in reintroducing a bipartisan bill called the ‘Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act‘, aiming to get rid of copays and out-of-pocket expenses for breast cancer diagnostic tests.

Doctors say early diagnosis is key to healing in many cancer cases, especially breast cancer. They say taking away a portion of the financial burden that comes with diagnosis would be instrumental in getting people diagnosed sooner.

“Anywhere from 10 to 15% of women who have an abnormal or have screening mammograms, have an abnormal mammogram and are called back for additional imaging,” says Dr. Helen Krontiras, director of clinical affairs at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB.

The O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB says about 4,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in Alabama with roughly 750 dying from the disease. Though the number of breast cancer cases has remained steady, the cancer center says the mortality rate has gone down.

“A lot of that has to do with our improvements in treatment, all the new great things that are out there for treating breast cancer, but it also has to do with our ability to diagnose breast cancer early,” Dr. Krontiras said.

Current law in Alabama requires insurance companies to have no-copay coverage for breast cancer screenings but not the diagnostic testing.

“Screening is just a big picture. It’s ‘hey, is anything there? Let me just get a lay of the land’,” says Dr. Anna Knight, a breast surgeon at Comprehensive Breast Health. “Diagnostic imaging is looking at something in particular, it’s honing in on this one little thing.”

Dr. Knight says getting rid of the cost for diagnostic testing would take a lot of pressure off women during an already stressful situation.

“There’s a huge impact on the anxiety that goes into this. Because it’s not just ‘Oh my gosh, what if I have breast cancer?’, it’s ‘Ok well how am I going to pay for this mammogram? How am I going to pay for any other diagnostic imaging? How am I going to pay for the biopsy? And keep the lights on. And keep gas in my car or make it to work’,” Knight said.

Though this bill would take the additional cost away from people with insurance, it would not help those uninsured. The Alabama nonprofit ‘Joy to Life Foundation’ says while this law would be a wonderful thing, the help should extend to all people.

“Whether a woman has insurance or not, they need to be able to afford it without any stress at all and they need all of these breast screenings to keep themselves healthy,” says Joy Blondheim, director of the Joy to Life Foundation.

If the ‘Access to Breast Cancer Diagnosis Act’ passes this year, it will go into effect at the beginning of 2024.