Protect Women’s Access to Mammograms
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Early detection saves lives. With one in eight women developing breast cancer during her lifetime, the earlier we can detect breast cancer, the better. After all, these are our mothers, daughters, grandmothers, wives, sisters, and friends, the people we care about most.
That’s why we, along with Bright Pink, Black Women’s Health Imperative, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association, Prevent Cancer Foundation, FORCE: Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered, Tigerlily Foundation, Oncology Nursing Society, National Patient Advocate Foundation, National Black Nurses Association, National Consortium of Breast Centers, Living Beyond Breast Cancer, American College of Radiology, Sharsheret, and Don't be a Chump! Check for a Lump! are concerned about new breast cancer screening recommendations proposed by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF or Task Force). The draft recommendations give annual mammograms for women ages 40-49 a “C” grade, meaning most women in this age group, according to the Task Force, do not need an annual exam. The proposed recommendations also state that women 50-74 need mammograms only every other year. You can review the proposed recommendations in more detail here.
What’s at Stake?
If finalized as proposed, the recommendations could limit access to lifesaving mammography exams. In light of the "C" grade, insurance companies would no longer be required to cover mammograms without cost sharing (co-payment or deductible) for women ages 40-49. The impact would be far reaching, affecting 22 million women between the ages of 40-49. This would include 2.8 million African American women, who have the highest rate of mortality from breast cancer and also are 45% less likely to have health insurance than white women. Avalere Health, a leading health care advisory group, weighed in on the issue of insurance coverage for mammograms, reporting that the draft breast cancer screening recommendations could lead to millions of women ages 40-49 losing their insurance coverage of mammograms.
How Many Cancers Are We Willing to Miss?
For many women in America, having to pay for a mammogram would be a deterrent to getting this critical exam. Women would continue to delay their mammogram or not go at all, meaning cancers would go undetected or caught at a later stage when mortality rates are higher and more invasive treatments are needed.
Of the approximately 40,000 women who die from breast cancer each year, up to 10,000 had cancer that potentially could have been diagnosed with screening mammography prior to the age of 50.
Which of our mothers, wives, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, and friends is it okay to lose?
Even More Accurate Exams Are at Risk
The draft recommendations also deem the evidence for 3D mammography insufficient (assigning an “I” grade), dismissing hundreds of peer-reviewed publications that clearly and consistently show 3D mammography is a more accurate exam. 3D mammograms significantly increase the detection of invasive cancer while reducing false positive recall rates – both of which are key concerns about conventional mammograms raised by the Task Force.
You Can Help!
Women 40 to 49 years old stand to lose insurance coverage for mammograms without cost-sharing. On July 30th, 2015, representatives Renee Ellmers (NC-02) and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23) introduced H.R. 3339, the “Protect Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act” (PALS Act) that would block the USPSTF draft recommendations. On August 5th, 2015, Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) introduced a companion bill, S. 1926. Make sure your voice is heard in ensuring all women have access to annual mammograms, regardless of their ability to pay. Sign the petition and call your Members of Congress today at (202) 224-3121 to urge them to support the PALS Act. Learn more at our campaign website at www.stoptheguidelines.com.
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