7News Investigates: Breast Cancer Survivor Pushes Back Against TSA

BEVERLY (WHDH) - After chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, a Beverly woman beat cancer. But she soon began a new battle – against the Transportation Security Administration.

Lauren Schultz got the diagnosis one year ago: inflammatory breast cancer.

“I think I was in shock. My husband was in shock. My daughter was in shock,” Schultz said.

But she is not one to feel sorry for herself.

“You can’t just curl up in a corner and say, ‘Woe is me,’” Schultz said.

She fought cancer, and won. Her hair is still growing back, and she now wears a prosthetic breast. She also carries a note from her doctor wherever she goes.

But that note wasn’t enough for TSA.

“All those feelings just come rushing back because of this incident,” Schultz said.

Schultz is talking about the first trip she took after returning to work in January. She was flying home from Austin, Texas in February when she was pulled out of the airport security line after going through a body scanner.

“I said, ‘OK. I have a letter from my doctor. I’ve been through chemotherapy. I’ve been through surgery. And I’ve been through radiation. I have a prosthetic breast, and perhaps you’re seeing that,’” Schultz said.

But Schultz said the TSA agent roughly pressed around the bottom of her chest.

“She said, ‘Well, is it OK if I just touch you like this?’ And she pressed on my arm. And I said, ‘No. It hurts,’” Schultz said.

She said the physical pain was slight, but the mental anguish was more intense.

“You don’t want somebody touching it. You don’t want somebody playing with it. And it does re-traumatize you,” Schultz said.

Schultz said it happened again in March. Then, last month, in Chicago, she said a TSA agent pulled her prosthetic out of her carry-on bag and examined it in front of other passengers.

“You can see it’s part of a bra. There’s no wires here. There’s no nothing. What could this be other than a prosthetic breast in a bra?” Schultz said. “I was really upset. I was crying walking through the airport trying to go to the gate. I felt really humiliated.”

7NEWS contacted the TSA, but the agency couldn’t determine whether its workers did anything wrong because the security checkpoint video was gone – the video is only kept for a certain period of time, and Schultz did not report her concerns to the agency at the time of the incidents.

The TSA says all prosthetics “are subject to additional screening.” But passengers can get a private screening, or have their prosthetic scanned separately with an x-ray machine.

The TSA also says passengers with a prosthetic, cast, brace or support appliance should tell a TSA agent before going through the screening process. Such passengers can also provide the agent with a TSA notification card or other medical documentation describing their condition.

Schultz said she hopes that by speaking out, she can help others avoid reliving the trauma of their treatments.

“It’s not the most comfortable conversation, I have to admit. But in the same token, if no one says anything, then we accept that,” Schultz said.

For people like Schultz, the TSA recommends signing up for TSA Pre-Check, which costs $80 but involves a less invasive screening process. Schultz said she recently signed up, and hasn’t had a problem since.

The TSA also has a hotline that anyone with specific issues, including disabilities and medical conditions, can call 72 hours prior to traveling. The TSA Cares Helpline can be reached at (855) 787-2227.

The TSA recommends that any passengers who want to submit a comment or complaint should contact the TSA as soon after their screening experience as possible.

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