Every October, iconic brands like Campbell’s soup, Macy’s and Estee Lauder pink their products for the month, and thousands take to the streets for breast cancer awareness walks to raise funds for treatment and research. Even the NFL gets in on the action with players donning pink gear for their games.
While the attention and funds raised through these efforts have helped a great deal in the fight against breast cancer, they have unfortunately done little to get women to use the best screening tool available for early detection of the disease. Our research* shows that only half of women age 40 and older comply with screening recommendations for a yearly mammogram, and almost one in five women between the ages of 50 and 65 did not have a mammogram in at least four years. Annual mammography by age and eligible members
There are a number of factors that could be preventing women from getting regular screenings:
Confusion: While the American Cancer Society and many other leading medical groups have continually called for yearly routine mammograms for women 40 and older, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued guidelines in 2009 recommending women get a mammogram every two years starting at age 50, triggering a heated national debate. Since then, conflicting studies on the value of yearly mammograms at certain ages have further clouded the issue.
Financial Concerns: The cost of screening can be a deterrent. Under the Affordable Care Act, certain insurance plans and Medicare are now required to cover mammograms at no cost to the patient. There also are many programs throughout the country, especially during October, offering free mammograms for uninsured and underserved women.
Forgetfulness and Procrastination: Express Scripts has found that forgetting and procrastinating are the two major reasons that people do not regularly take their medications. The same can be said for not going for regular medical screenings. Many women lead hectic lives and often put their own health needs on the back burner or simply forget to schedule appointments for themselves, particularly when caring for their children or aging parents. Many physicians offer phone or mail reminders when a patient is due for a mammogram, which is one good way to keep it on the calendar.
While there may be disagreement over the best age to start mammograms and how frequently they should be done, there is no debate over the need for the doctor and patient to discuss and assess each woman’s breast cancer risk and determine the appropriate mammogram schedule, as well as ensure access to those needed screenings.
* METHODOLOGY: Mammography claims were obtained for women age 40 and older with no prior history of breast cancer from a de-identified administrative database on a subset of the population, whose pharmacy benefits were managed by Medco and who were continuously eligible between 2006 and 2009.
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