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Breast CancerBreast Cancer StoriesMonday's with Jean Campbell

The Cost of Mammograms is Not Always the Issue

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mammogramsThose of us who get annual mammograms want to believe that those who don’t are uninsured and cannot afford the out-of-pocket cost of paying for one.

Not true said researchers in a report to the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2010.

According to the research report, about half of the women whose insurance pays for mammograms get annual screenings. Medical claims from more than 1.5 million women aged 40 and older showed that only 50% of the women had annual mammograms in the years 2006 to 2009.

Breaking out these statistics by age group, researchers reported that among women 40 to 49 years of age, 47% had  annual mammograms, while 54% of women aged 50 to 64 got annual mammograms. Only 45% of  women 65 and older got annual mammograms.

So why are so many insured women skipping annual mammograms? Women were not interviewed as a part of the research presented in the report. However, some of the  possible reasons given by the researchers included:

  • Confusion about how often  women need to get mammograms in light of the guidelines issued by the US Preventative Services Task Force two years ago. This report generated a strong reaction from health care providers, The American Cancer Society and women themselves who disagreed with the new guidelines and support the continued need to begin annual mammograms at 40.
  • Women are too busy with their lives and postpone annual mammograms
  • Women want to avoid the pain and discomfort of mammograms

I have yet to meet the woman who looks forward to an annual mammogram. I know I didn’t; I dreaded it.

Rationally,  most of us know that avoiding annual mammograms will not prevent us hearing those dreaded words…you have breast cancer. So, we need to motivate ourselves and those we love by reminding them that by having annual mammograms we have the best possible chance of:

  • Finding breast cancer before it is big enough to be felt in a self-exam or by a physician in a comprehensive breast exam
  • Early intervention and treatment
  • Catching the cancer before it spreads beyond the breast
  • Catching the cancer before it requires extensive surgery and chemotherapy

Yes, I know I often beat the drum about annual mammograms. I can’t help sharing what saved my life, not once but twice, and spared me chemotherapy.

SOURCE : San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, San Antonio, Dec. 8-12, 2010.


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