Women veterans in Congress want improved breast cancer screening for service members

McSally, Houlahan, Introduce Breast Cancer Screening Bill for Military Women
Photo credit (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Danielle A. Baker/Released)

Women in Congress are rallying for more technologically advanced breast cancer screening options for female service members.

The Better and Robust Screening Today Act (BRST), introduced by Sens. Martha McSally, R-AZ., Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH., and Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-PA., would require the Department of Defense to cover Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography or DBT.

DBT is a new imaging tool that can improve a radiologist’s ability to detect breast cancer while reducing the need for a biopsy and the probability of false readings. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it could soon be the “gold standard in breast imaging.”

Currently, the Department of Veterans Affairs covers the cost of DBT while TRICARE only covers it as a secondary screening option, if the initial, more traditional mammogram fails.

"Servicemembers and their families sacrifice so much and deserve the best health care and technology available,” McSally said. “There is simply no good reason to deny DBT screening, the latest breast cancer imaging technology, to Tricare patients."

According to the American Cancer Society, about one in eight women will develop breast cancer and about 85 percent of breast cancers occur in women with no family history of the disease.

In July, Houlahan penned a letter to the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs concerning the disparity in breast cancer screening coverage for military members and their families.

“The BRST Act marks an important step in addressing the gaps in TRICARE, which covers millions in our military community. DBT Mammography is the best screening for breast cancer we have for women with dense breast tissue,” Houlahan said.

Nine other congresswomen have co-sponsored the bill including presidential candidates Kamala Harris, D-CA., and Elizabeth Warren, D-MA.

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