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Mammogram Rate May Go Up In January

August 18, 2010
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Starting in January, Medicare patients will be able to receive free mammograms. This provision of the new health-care law also applies to colorectal cancer screening, among other procedures.

This could, reports Michelle Andrews for the Washington Post and Kaiser Health News, significantly increase the number of women seeking routine mammograms. She cites a study published in 2008 in the New England Journal of Medicine. It found that Medicare plans that required copayments of more than $10 had screening rates of 8 percent to 11 percent lower than full-coverage plans.

Currently, patients receiving traditional Medicare coverage pay 20 percent of the cost for most covered preventive services. The new requirements for free preventive coverage don’t apply to Medicare Advantage plans, though many of those already offer free preventive services.

Meanwhile, a new advisory committee, announced this week, “will develop and coordinate a strategic federal research agenda on environmental and genetic factors related to breast cancer,” according to a National Institutes of Health news release. The Interagency Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Coordinating Committee will review all breast cancer research conducted or supported by federal agencies. (No radiologists are among its 19 members.)

And the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reported this week that U.S. breast cancer rates are nearly double those of South American countries. The latest statistics show that 76 U.S. women per 100,000 were diagnosed in 2008, compared with 44 women per 100,000 in South America. (Both numbers were adjusted for age.)

The AICR attributed some of the differences to U.S advantages in breast cancer screening, diagnosis, and record-keeping. But it estimated that 40 percent of U.S. breast cancer cases could be prevented if individuals maintained a healthy weight, consumed less alcohol, and became more physically active. It also noted evidence that breast-feeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. Rates of breast-feeding are higher in South America than in the United States.

Related seminar: Breast Imaging and Digital Mammography

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