​AJ Scheitler is the Center coordinator of stakeholder relations and lead author of new findings on three main types of barriers women with breast cancer face in California. In this brief interview, Scheitler discusses a pending state bill on breast cancer care time limits, barriers to accessing care, and gaps in awareness of patient rights.

Q:  How would the proposed bill, SB-945, help low-income women who have breast cancer?

​Currently, a woman who enrolls in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Treatment Program (BCCTP) has a limit of 18 months of treatment for breast cancer and 24 months for cervical cancer. No woman who needs more [time] to complete her breast cancer care program should be told she’s now on her own. The bill would eliminate the prescribed time limits and instead provide coverage throughout treatment, whether that is 12 months or 20 months.

Q:  Your study says more than 29,000 women in the state will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Why do so few doctors treat women with the disease?

​This barrier is not exclusive to the number of physicians and treatment centers in California. Certainly, the challenge of finding providers varies by insurance status and the size of the available network. However, multiple other factors can complicate access, such as geography or language. While an obvious example of a barrier is an immigrant living in a rural area seeking a doctor that can speak Tagalog, it can be just as difficult for a woman in Los Angeles who depends on public transportation to find conveniently located breast cancer providers.

Q:  Aren’t some of the issues identified in your study, such as rights to interpreters for limited-English proficient patients and/or the ability to keep a current provider if insurance status changes already covered by state law?

​Yes, unfortunately, we did identify some barriers that seemingly should not be given current state laws. The fact that we heard that language barriers still stop women from getting timely care demonstrates a gap in services. This includes the timely availability of an interpreter when a patient has an appointment or during other interactions, like scheduling appointments or receiving pre-appointment instructions