Dr. David Gruen, director of Women's Imaging at Stamford Hospital, reviews a 3-D image.

Medicare Costs For Breast Cancer Screenings Soar, But Benefits Remain Unclear

Medicare-funded breast cancer screenings jumped 44 percent from $666 million to $962 million from 2001 to 2009, yet those added costs did not improve early detection rates among the 65 and older Medicare population, according to a Yale School of Medicine study published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The increase was due mostly to the use of costlier digital mammography ($115 per screening) compared to film mammography ($73 per screening), along with newer and expensive screening and adjunct technologies, including breast ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and biopsy. The study is the second from Yale since January 2013 to conclude that increased Medicare spending for breast cancer screening does not necessarily translate into better outcomes. The latest study has spurred debate about the cost and value of mammography in Medicare beneficiaries, particularly women 75 and older. Some physicians recommend continued screening, while others argue that it is unnecessary and only fuels anxiety among older women.

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CT Breast Density Screening Law May Set National Standard

Nancy Cappello wants all women to receive the same opportunities for breast cancer screening that women in Connecticut have had for years. Cappello, who worked for passage of the state’s 2009 breast density notification law, has taken her cause nationally – advocating for similar legislation in every state and lobbying policymakers in Washington D.C.

Connecticut’s law — the first of its kind in the country — requires radiologists to inform women who undergo mammography if they are diagnosed with dense breast tissue, a condition known to obscure cancer detection. These “inform” reports must reference potential benefits of supplemental screening such as an MRI or ultrasound. So far, 11 states have followed Connecticut’s lead by passing similar laws. According to data collected in Connecticut, ultrasounds have detected breast cancers that mammograms missed.

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