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A Chance Encounter Leads to New Mammogram Law

Local legislator Anthony Portantino bumped into a constiuent in the post office who suggested a bill to make it easier for younger women to get mammograms. Five years later, that bill has become law.

When La Canada resident Jean Stoud bumped into Assemblymember Anthony Portantino at the Foothill Boulevard Post Office five years ago, she had something important weighing on her mind.

A good friend had just gotten her first mammogram at the suggested age of 40. And the test results showed: her friend had advanced breast cancer.

“Is there anything that can be done? This is crazy for high risk people,” Stroud asked the local politician, noting that women shouldn’t have to wait until they’re 40-years-old for mammograms to be covered by insurers.

Portantino was receptive. He did his research, and proposed a bill.

Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill twice during his term. But it was re-introduced in 2011. And despite the setbacks, Portantino had a good feeling about it: “We knew we were on the right side of science, and I think that’s important,” said Portantino.

AB 137 was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown September 22. The legislation ensures that more women in California have access to mammograms allowing doctors to order diagnostic tests based on various high risk factors rather than just age.

After years of anticipation, Stoud is grateful to that local women will now have this resource.

“Our community is very close-knit … so when someone is suffering, we bond together,” she said.

A woman in California has a 122 in 100,000 chance of getting breast cancer, according to this breast cancer statistics chart from komen.orgAnd despite ongoing debate, mammography is still considered the best screening tool for early detection. Factors like dense breast tissue and early exposure to radiation can affect a women’s chance of getting the disease. See this breast cancer risk factor table for more details.

A father of two daughters, Portantino has long advocated for women’s’ issues. 

“It makes me feel good that women in my district would be comfortable enough with me to talk about a sensitive issue like this,” he said of AB 137. "This is an issue that touches everyone."

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