By KD Flick, Physician Liaison, Genesis Imaging Centers
Last month’s article focused on getting back to the basics of breast health, and the importance of practicing three key exams: 1) Monthly self breast exams (BSE), 2) Annual clinical breast exam, and 3) Scheduling your first screening mammogram by age 40, unless personal health risks indicate earlier screening.
Also mentioned was the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation that women have their first mammogram at age 50 instead of 40, and then only receiving mammograms every two years, instead of annually. In the days following this announcement, multiple cancer/health organizations and individuals immediately expressed disapproval of the revised guidelines. Among them included: the American Medical Association (AMA); American College of Surgeons (ACoS); American Cancer Society (ACS); American College of Radiology (ACR); National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN); Society of Breast Imaging (SBI); the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); Mayo Clinic; and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
W. Phil Evans, MD, FACR, president of the Society of Breast Imaging (SBI) summarized the prevailing position shared among breast specialists and the preceding organizations:
“The USPSTF recommendations are a step backward, and represent a significant harm to women’s health… These recommendations are inconsistent with current science, and apparently have been developed in an attempt to reduce costs. Unfortunately, many women may pay for this unsound approach with their lives.” [Please put this statement in a callout box if possible. Thanks!]
In the end, mammography is the “gold standard” for detecting cancer, and remains the most effective breast cancer-screening tool used today. It has helped reduce the breast cancer death rate in the United States by 30 percent. At present, there are no tests to replace mammography.
As we turn the corner into 2016, there remains confusion among women, and theoretical disagreement among healthcare providers. Additionally, there is the threat of future financial directives from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that sets reimbursement policies for health providers and insurance carriers of when to begin mammography screening, and how often to repeat it.
So, What’s a Woman to do? – Use Your Power to Choose!
Choose Annual Mammography at Age 40
You have the power to choose annual screening, even though your provider may philosophically believe differently. If you are 40 years or older, and your provider has not discussed mammography with you, ask to talk about breast health and screening. It’s important that your family history of breast and other cancers is discussed so that you and your physician understand your risk of breast cancer (or for survivors, the potential for reoccurrence). Insurance companies and Medicare cover the cost for annual screening mammograms.
Choose Convenience — No Order? No Problem!
No doctor’s order is required for an annual mammogram. At Genesis Imaging Centers and Genesis Health System, all you need to do is make a phone call to schedule an exam. Your test results will automatically be sent to your doctor.
Choose the Newest Breast Cancer Detection Tool in 30 Years: 3D Mammography (Tomosynthesis)
You now have the power to choose the most accurate mammography available. At the time of the USPST Force recommendation in 2009, 3D mammography was still under development by several manufacturers. In 2011, it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In those four years, 3D mammography has steadily flourished, and is now found in hospitals and imaging centers throughout the world.
What Is 3D Mammography?
3D mammography is a revolutionary new screening and diagnostic tool designed for early breast cancer detection and can be done in conjunction with a traditional 2D digital mammogram. This clinically-proven technology is the biggest breakthrough in breast cancer detection in 30 years. Here’s how it works:
The process of a 3D mammogram is the same as a conventional 2D exam. However, during the 3D part of the exam, the X-ray arm sweeps in a slight arc over the breast, taking multiple breast images. Then, a computer produces a 3D image of your breast tissue in one millimeter slices, providing greater visibility of breast detail than previously possible, enabling the radiologist to scroll through images of the entire breast, like flipping through pages of a book.
Increased Detection, Reduced “Callbacks”
Several large studies have shown that 3D mammography detects up to 41 percent more invasive breast cancers. It may reduce a woman’s chance that she will be called back for additional imaging or a biopsy.
Who Should Have a 3D Mammogram?
3D mammography is approved for all women and all breast types. It is particularly effective for women with dense breast tissue, or those at high risk for developing breast cancer.
The Imaging Centers uses the lowest radiation dose available for both 2D and 3D exams, and is well within the FDA safety standards for mammography.
Cost & Insurance Coverage
Medicare covers the full cost of a 3D mammogram, but most commercial insurers do not. Call your insurer to verify if the exam will be covered. If not, the cost of adding 3D imaging to a mammogram is just $60. This covers both the facility’s and the radiologist’s fees. Of course, you may always choose to have a traditional 2D mammogram.
Your breast health depends on your power to take action and make healthy lifestyle choices.
First, know your family history and personal risk of breast cancer. Second, practice monthly self breast exams, and know what’s normal for you. Third, and most importantly, get screened. If you are 40 or over, commit to annual screenings, preferably on or near your birthday (so it’s easy to remember). Fourth, for the cost of a manicure and pedicure, you can have a 3D mammogram — the biggest breakthrough in early invasive breast cancer detection in 30 years. Finally, you have the power to schedule an annual mammogram at your convenience.
With greater access to health information and leading edge cancer technology, it’s become easier to take a more active role in preventive self-care. Adopting an attitude of personal empowerment by taking an active role in your breast health offers the best chance of surviving breast cancer.
Genesis Imaging Centers serves Iowa and Illinois. For questions or more information, contact KD Flick, Physician Liaison, (563) 421-5632. Genesis Imaging Centers scheduling, (563) 421-XRAY (9729). Hospital scheduling (563) 421-3200.
Photo credit: Vallentin/iStock
1/3rd Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly one-third since 1990.
1 in 69 The ten-year risk for breast cancer in a 40 year old woman is 1 in 69.
1 in 6 1 in 6 breast cancers occur in women aged 40-49.
40% Of all the years of life saved by mammography, 40 percent are for women in their 40’s.
3/4 ¾ of all women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease, and are not considered high risk.
30% Even for women 50+, skipping a mammogram every other year would miss up to 30 percent of cancers.