Breast cancer tests may not be worth cost
A new study published in JAMA indicates that Medicare pays over $1 billion in breast cancer screening, almost as much as it spends in treating the condition. However, when analysts examined the correlation between population results and screening costs, they found that new technology may make it easier to detect cancer, but that outcomes may not be improved.
Computer-aided detection (CAD) and digital mammography, new technologies that greatly enhance a doctor's ability to find cancer, may be beneficial, but are also costly. The authors of the study looked at older women, in particular, as yearly screenings cost over $410 million, of which 65 percent went to CAD or digital mammography. Despite the high cost, it has not yet been concluded if the high priced screenings – especially for older women – create improved breast cancer outcomes.
Nobody wants to discuss a deadly condition such as breast cancer in terms of economics, where screening and treatment may be deemed too expensive to be worth it. But the conclusions drawn from this study indicate that, ultimately, all of the high-cost screening may not help the patient.