Skipping your Mammograms? Tell Us Why

Phyllis Johnson Health Guide

    Hardly a week goes by that we do not get a question from a woman who is desperate to get a mammogram.  Because she is uninsured or has no family doctor, she doesn't know where to turn to find the cause of her troublesome breast cancer symptoms.

    I am one of those fortunate enough to have health insurance to pay for my mammograms, and that yearly visit is an important part of my health care.  In fact, I have an appointment next week.

    So I was surprised to learn that a study presented at this year's San Antonio Breast Cancer Conference found that only 50% of insured women were getting annual mammograms.  The study, led by Dr. Milayna Subar, showed slight differences by age group.  Forty-seven percent of the women who were 40-49 years old had an annual mammogram between 2006 and 2009.  The women between 50-64 had the highest rate at 54%.  Then the rate dropped to 45% in the group of women at the highest risk, those who are over 65.

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    The researchers looked at medical insurance claims from more than 1.5 million women, so it is a large study that excludes cost as a factor in mammograms.  Not all women need annual mammograms between ages 40 and 50.  For some who are low risk for breast cancer, a baseline mammogram may be enough.  However, for the over-fifty crowd, the data clearly shows mammograms are life savers.

    It's easy to delay that important appointment.  People are busy, and not every one lives near a mammogram center.   Mammograms can be uncomfortable.  Some women are embarrassed to undress. 

    Nevertheless, I am astounded that half of us who have access to health care are not using it.  If you haven't been getting your mammograms even though your insurance covers them, let us know what is preventing you from using this important part of preventive health care.

    I wish there were some kind of trade system where all those folks who are skipping their mammograms could donate them to the uninsured women who are desperate to have one!



Published On: December 19, 2010