Three of the scariest words in the English language are spoken thousands of times a day in doctor’s offices across the country: “You have cancer.”

This year, more than 12,000 Pennsylvania women will hear those words as they are diagnosed with breast cancer. These women are our friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers – perhaps even ourselves.

“You have cancer.” This diagnosis was delivered to both of Sen. Tracy Pennycuick’s grandmothers, her mother, her aunt and cousins.

Sometimes, but not often enough, they are followed by four more words: “We caught it early.” When breast cancer and/or the gene mutations associated with it are detected early, patients have far more options and outcomes and odds of remission are drastically improved, nearly 90 percent for some cancers. There are no substitutes for regular screenings and genetic testing, especially for those with risk factors or a family history.

Pure and simple, early detection saves lives.

But for many women, these life-saving genetic tests and enhanced screenings are unavailable due to cost. This is unacceptable. Cost should never be a barrier to early cancer detection.

The Pennsylvania Senate has come together in a bipartisan effort to help strengthen the health and safety of our communities across the commonwealth by breaking down these financial barriers to early detection.

Senate President Pro Tempore Kim Ward, a breast cancer survivor thanks to early detection, sponsored Senate Bill 8, and we are proud to fully support our colleague and this legislation as cosponsors. This legislation is the first of its kind in the nation and will remove all out-of-pocket costs and mandate 100 percent coverage for preventative breast cancer screenings for high-risk patients. This includes coverage of all costs associated with supplemental screenings by MRI or Ultrasound, which are especially important for women with dense breast tissue.

No deductibles, no co-pays, no co-insurance.

The bill also covers genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutation, an invaluable life-saving tool that often leads to earlier cancer detection or even prevention. Genetic testing not only informs the tested individual, but also enables their family members to understand their own risks and manage their own care.

We are proud to report that this bill was unanimously passed by the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee on February 28 and, with 47 cosponsors, we expect its passage by the full Senate shortly, sending a loud and clear message that it is time to remove the financial barriers associated with preventive breast cancer screenings and genetic testing that prevent women from obtaining affordable access to preventive screenings that detects breast cancer early and saves lives.

We encourage the House of Representatives to move swiftly as well so that Senate Bill 8 can be sent to the governor for his signature.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or