Cancer survivor’s experience inspires law 

For seven years, Amy Colton did everything right.

The registered nurse carefully followed a yearly mammogram routine and conducted monthly self-examinations, all in the hope of screening for breast cancer.

But after seven years of precaution, Colton was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009. Only later did she learn that women like herself with dense breast tissue are four to six times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was never informed that I had dense breast tissue,” Colton said. “Everyone should have this information about their own physiology.”

Using her own experience as motivation, Colton entered state Sen. Joe Simitian’s “There Oughta be a Law” contest in hopes of translating her idea of dense breast tissue disclosure into possible legislation. Her bill was one of four winners announced last week — two new bills and two previous winners that will be reintroduced after failing to make it into law in past years.

Simitian started the contest in 2001 as a way for his constituents to voice concerns and offer legislative solutions. The former Palo Alto school board and council member has since seen 16 contest-winning proposed senate bills signed into law.

Though a huge majority of the entries never see the senate floor, people appreciate Simitian’s efforts.

“I just think so highly of him for listening and taking to heart what is important to his constituents,” said Colton, who successfully completed treatment in 2010.

Simitian introduced Colton’s winning entry as SB 173, which would entitle women to be notified if they have dense breast tissue. At the moment, such notification isn’t common practice.

This year’s other winner, Peninsula library law consultant and former librarian Mary Minow, suggested that state law be amended to extend protections for a library patron’s privacy. SB 445 would protect an individual’s records when using a library to access e-mail, e-books and other digital media.

“I think our privacy is in extreme danger,” said Minow, who noted that the state’s current library privacy laws don’t encompass digital records and that an update is needed.

This year’s contest garnered 462 entries, more than any other year.

“I’m always impressed with the diversity of applicants and ideas,” said Simitian in a press release.

They are laws

Some winning entries from Sen. Joe Simitian that are now state law:

SB 486Sharps disposal, 2008

Provides for safe disposal of “sharps” (a type of medical waste that includes syringes and needles).

SB 1401 Traumatic brain injury, 2007

Creates outreach programs for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan addressing education and treatment of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

AB 1854 Lights on, wipers on, 2003

Requires headlights to be turned on when wipers are being used.


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