ACCESS TO MAMMOGRAM SERVICES TIGHTENING.Byline: Staff and Wire Reports
Mammography mammography, diagnostic procedure that uses low-dose X rays to detect abnormalities in the breasts. The early diagnosis of breast cancer made possible by the routine use of mammography for screening women increases a woman's treatment alternatives and improves her centers are scaling back or even closing because of inadequate reimbursement rates and malpractice fears at a time when more and more aging baby boomers See generation X. need annual breast exams.
It all adds up to a crisis taking shape in mammography, experts warned Wednesday. In Southern California Southern California, also colloquially known as SoCal, is the southern portion of the U.S. state of California. Centered on the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego, Southern California is home to nearly 24 million people and is the nation's second most populated region, , the problem isn't that centers are closing or scaling back, but getting access to the large number of clinics that operate in the region.
With access shrinking, women often have to wait months to schedule an annual breast cancer screening This article or section recently underwent a major revision or rewrite and needs further review. You can help! X-ray mammography
Mammography is still the modality of choice for screening of early breast cancer, since it is relatively fast, reasonably accurate, and and may decide to skip the exams altogether. Even women with suspicious lumps may have to wait several weeks to get a mammogram mammogram /mam·mo·gram/ (mam´o-gram) a radiograph of the breast.
An x-ray image of the breast produced by mammography. .
That can delay the diagnosis of breast cancer and result in tumors being detected at later, less treatable stages, a panel of doctors said at the Radiology Society of North America's annual meeting.
Studies have shown that routine mammograms can decrease the risk of dying from breast cancer by as much as 40 percent. About 1 million women a year are turning 40, the age when many doctors say annual screening should begin, the panel said.
Screening mammograms typically cost between $75 and $150, while diagnostic mammograms, performed when a problem is suspected, may cost well over $200.
Recommended Medicare reimbursement rates, set by Congress, are well below that - $67 for a screening mammogram and $81 for a diagnostic exam, said Dr. Stephen Feig, director of breast imaging at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of .
That cuts into the budgets at many mammography centers, which are being subsidized by their other radiology services, said Dr. Ellen Mendelson, director of a breast imaging center at Western Pennsylvania Hospital.
The most prominent closure occurred last year when New York University New York University, mainly in New York City; coeducational; chartered 1831, opened 1832 as the Univ. of the City of New York, renamed 1896. It comprises 13 schools and colleges, maintaining 4 main centers (including the Medical Center) in the city, as well as the Medical Center shut one of its two mammography services for financial reasons. A few smaller centers elsewhere have closed, and many others have reduced services, the panel said.
Lagging reimbursement rates and concerns over malpractice - the exams miss between 10 percent and 20 percent of cancers - are leading many would-be mammographers to choose other specialties, the panel added.
The American College of Radiology The American College of Radiology (ACR), founded in 1923, is a non-profit professional medical organization composed of diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, nuclear medicine physicians, and medical physicists. , in a May letter to the federal government's Health Care Financing Administration Health Care Financing Administration,
n.pr department in the U.S. agency of Health and Human Services responsible for the oversight of the Medicaid and Medicare benefit programs, including guidelines, payment, and coverage policies. , warned that more hospitals may scale back mammography services unless reimbursement rates are increased.
The American Association of Health Plans, however, doesn't see a crisis looming.
The AAHP AAHP American Association of Health Plans
AAHP American Academy of Health Physics
AAHP Arkansas Association of Health-System Pharmacists
AAHP Alabama Association of Health Plans , which represents more than 1,000 managed care plans and other insurers, cites national figures showing that the number of women aged 40 and older who have had a mammogram within the last two years more than doubled since 1987. Such figures, the group said, do not suggest any lack of access.
``The data we have available doesn't support a crisis in mammography,'' said Dr. Charles Cutler, the group's chief medical officer. ``The plans in general have been increasing reimbursement rates over the last few years.''
Michael Chee, a spokesman with Thousand Oaks-based Blue Cross of California, agreed, saying, ``We don't have any evidence to support that it's a problem in Southern California.''
While some centers may have closed, the overall number has hovered at around 10,000 nationwide for the past few years, said AAHP spokeswoman Susan Pisano.