Skipping Mammograms

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Thursday, December 9, 2010 - 4:50pm

Study finds half of American women skip their annual mammograms, and cost isn't the reason.

Nearly 70 percent of women say they will get a mammogram every year, yet a new review of over one million health insurance claims finds for many there's no proof they had a single one over a four year period.

"We thought we would find a much higher compliance with mammography," says Dr. Milayna Subar of Medco Health Solutions.

Dr. Subar and her colleagues found just over half of women in the age group most at risk for the disease, those between the ages of 50 and 64, were screened once a year.

The numbers were lower for older and younger women.

"40 percent of women did not follow the guidelines to have a mammogram," says Dr. Subar.

Many women simply don't know when they should get a mammogram.

New federal guidelines issued last year suggest women start screenings at age 50 instead of 40, and the test should be done every two years instead of annually.

However, some groups, including the American Cancer Society, still suggest yearly mammograms.

Experts admit it is confusing and say women should talk with their doctor about when they should be screened.

Also unclear are the reasons why women are skipping the test.

The study didn't address this point directly, but researchers have a few ideas.

"Reasons could include costs, confusion about what to do, and access," Dr. Subar says.

All of the women included in the study had health insurance, so experts say costs are not a significant reason for skipping the scan.

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