Personal Stories, Advocacy
By: Mona Jaffe Rowe
Komen Advocate in Science
(L to R) Delegate Aruna Miller, Mona Rowe, Lori Yates of Komen Maryland
Mona was always diligent about getting her annual screening mammograms. For years, they’d come back negative. One time a mammogram showed a spot, but a sonogram (an imaging test also known as “breast ultrasound” sometimes ordered for women with prior history of breast cancer or those with dense breasts) later revealed it was not cancer.
Then, a few years later, her sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although her subsequent mammograms had been negative, Mona asked her doctor if she could get another sonogram (breast ultrasound) done. Her doctor was unsure, but agreed it could be a good thing, as it had been a few years.
“Everything with the sonogram was normal, until the end when they found something under my arm,” Mona said. “When the radiologist says, ‘hmmm…’ you know it’s not necessarily something good.”
A week later she went in for a biopsy, and in 2015 she was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.
That was the beginning of her personal breast cancer journey, and as she’d soon find out, the beginning of an even bigger fight between Mona and this disease.
Mona Jaffe Rowe, Komen Advocate in Science
“I got involved in breast cancer advocacy for two reasons. First, my gynecologist called me her ‘miracle patient,’ saying it could have been five years before we found my tumor if I hadn’t requested the sonogram. And second, when I went for my sonogram, I had to agree to pay for the test out of pocket before they would perform it! And it’s hundreds of dollars! MANY women may be unable to afford it, put it off, or not have it done. It’s not fair that they are forced to gamble with their lives. And it just doesn’t make any sense.”
Komen’s Advocacy priorities include taking on insurance barriers, advocating for policies to reduce or eliminate out-of-pocket costs for medically necessary diagnostic tests.
“I’ve been working to create and pass legislation in Maryland that would guarantee women with insurance do not have to pay more out of pocket for a diagnostic mammogram or sonogram than they would pay for needed preventive screening. Further, because I’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, every single screening I get from now on will be considered a ‘diagnostic’ mammogram, which means higher costs. It’s almost as if they’re charging me and other survivors more for the privilege of having been diagnosed with and surviving breast cancer.”
Komen is also actively engaging policymakers at the federal level to increase breast cancer research funding, increase access to clinical trials, and protect the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP), with advocates like Mona fighting by our side every day.
“We need to take the wins where we can get them, and working on this legislation is my way to help all people facing breast cancer. So many women are affected by this, and breast cancer is a huge mountain to climb. But I can handle a small part of the big fight – I can take it on and make a difference.”
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