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Transgender woman's lawsuit leads to CDC policy change for breast cancer screenings

10:05 PM, Dec 23, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - A Colorado transgender woman's lawsuit has led to a nationwide policy change at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jennifer Blair had surgery to change her gender more than a decade ago.

Blair was denied a free breast cancer screening this spring because CDC policy only covered patients who were born female.

Two months after 9Wants to Know aired the story, the CDC changed its policy.

The CDC reversed that policy last week and transgender women are now covered.

When Blair tried getting a free mammogram this spring, she never imagined what would happen.

"When I was told that I didn't qualify because I was transgender, that just really shook my foundations," Blair said. "I'm really no different than anybody else."

Her income at the time was below the poverty line and she met all the requirements, except one: CDC policy only covered "genetically female" patients.

Blair's doctor was concerned about unusual breast growth.

Blair takes hormones, and long term use increases the risk for breast cancer.

She was forced to leave without getting a mammogram.

Attorney Sarah Parady sued on Blair's behalf, challenging what they call a blatant act of discrimination.

"Trans women were coming in for breast cancer screenings because they needed it and were being turned away," Parady said.

After 9Wants to Know interviewed Blair in October, hundreds of news outlets picked up the story.

"[It has] gone viral on the internet," Blair said. "I found it in newspapers as far away as the United Kingdom and Zimbabwe."

Online comments show just how divided society is on the transgender issue.

One commenter wrote "I fully support this woman and SHE is a woman," while another wrote "Another leach wanting something for free."

"I was not a person. I was "it". And actually I kind of felt badly for those people," Blair said.

Blair's story got the attention of the CDC.

Cancer prevention expert Dr. Jacqueline Miller issued a memo last week stating "federal funds may be used to screen these transgender women."

The memo specifies patients must be "transgender women (male-to-female) who have taken or are taking hormones and meet all program eligibility requirements."

"It feels good," Blair said. "The change in policy may actually save someone's life someday."

Blair has since learned she does not have breast cancer, but she's still at higher risk because of her long-term hormone use.

Blair's finances have improved, so she'll be able to pay for future mammograms.

Blair hopes other transgender women will no longer be turned away if they qualify for free breast cancer screenings.

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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