THURSDAY, Dec. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Only 50 percent of women
over age 40 in the United States get an annual mammogram to screen
for breast cancer, even if they have insurance to cover the
procedure, a new study finds.
Researchers used a database of more than 12 million people to
review medical claims filed between January 2006 and December 2009.
All the women included in the study had either employer-provided
insurance or Medicare.
The study found that only 50 percent of women ages 40 to 85 had
a mammogram in any given year and only 60 percent had two or more
mammograms over four years. The average annual mammography rates
were 47 percent for women ages 40 to 49, 54 percent for women ages
50 to 64, and 45 percent for those 65 and older.
The findings were presented Thursday at the annual San Antonio
Breast Cancer Symposium.
While the researchers did not examine the reasons why many women
don't get annual mammograms, they said there are a number of
theories, including discomfort caused by the test; lack of
screening centers; and general non-compliance or denial.
Last year, there was an uproar when the U.S. Preventive Services
Task Force recommended that the age at which women get their first
mammogram be increased from 40 to 50.
"Women reacted strongly to that recommendation with protests about their right to have an annual mammogram that should not be taken away," study author Dr. Milayna Subar, vice president and national practice leader for oncology at Medco Health Solutions, said in an American Association for Cancer Research news release. "Interestingly though, we found that a large percentage of women do not get regular mammograms," she said.
Major medical organizations and advocacy groups -- including the
American Cancer Society, the American Congress of Obstetricians and
Gynecologists and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer
foundation -- have refused to recognize the task force guidelines
and continue to recommend that women start receiving mammograms at
The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more