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Many Women Report Paying Out-of-Pocket Costs for Routine Mammograms

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At, we believe that a woman’s best chance for early detection of breast cancer requires coordination of current screening tools:

  • high-quality mammography
  • clinical breast exam
  • breast self-exam

To not use all three tools misses opportunities for early detection.

A study has found more than 23% of women aged 50 to 64 reported paying a cost for their most recent mammogram. Paying out-of-pocket costs for mammograms can be a barrier to women receiving annual mammograms. Reducing out-of-pocket costs is a recommended way to increase the number of women having regular mammograms.

The research was published online on Sept. 28, 2018 by the Journal of Women’s Health. Read “Prevalence of Out-Of-Pocket Payments for Mammography Screening Among Recently Screened Women.”

How many women are paying for mammograms?

To do the study, the researchers analyzed information collected through the 2015 National Health Interview Survey, an annual household survey of a representative sample of the U.S. population done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers looked at women aged 50 to 64 and women aged 65 to 74.

Of the 2,066 women aged 50 to 64, most:

  • were white
  • had greater than a high school education
  • had private insurance

Of the 1,212 women aged 65 to 74, most:

  • were white
  • had greater than a high school education
  • had a combination of Medicare and private insurance

Less than 3% of women in either age group were uninsured.

All the women had a mammogram in the previous year, and none of the women had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Among women aged 50 to 64, 23.5% reported paying any cost for their most recent mammogram. About 39% of uninsured women in this age group paid a cost for their most recent mammogram.

Among women aged 65 to 74, 11.9% reported paying any cost for their most recent mammogram. For women with Medicare as their only insurance, 22.5% reporting paying out-of-pocket costs for their most recent mammogram.

"Out-of-pocket payments can be a barrier to receiving mammography screening and may contribute to disparities in screening," said Susan Kornstein, M.D., editor-in-chief of the Journal of Women's Health. "Efforts are needed to better understand why many women in certain groups are paying out-of-pocket for mammograms, and to reduce or eliminate cost barriers for these women."

Current screening mammogram recommendations

If you're 40 or older and have an average risk of breast cancer, yearly screening mammograms should be part of your healthcare. If your breast cancer risk is higher than average, you should talk to your doctor about a more aggressive breast cancer screening plan that makes the most sense for your particular situation.

There's only one of you, and you deserve the best care possible. Don't let any barriers get in the way of your regular screening mammograms:

  • If you're worried about cost, talk to your doctor, a local hospital social worker, a nurse navigator, or staff members at a mammogram center. Ask about free programs in your area.
  • If you're having problems scheduling a mammogram, call the National Cancer Institute (800-4-CANCER) or the American College of Radiology (800-227-5463) to find certified mammogram providers near you.
  • If you find mammograms painful, ask the mammography center staff members how the experience can be made as easy and as comfortable as possible for you.

For more information on mammograms and other tests to detect breast cancer, visit the Breast Cancer Tests: Screening, Diagnosis, and Monitoring pages.

Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor

Reviewed by: Brian Wojciechowski, M.D., medical adviser

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