Study: Screening mammo rate hovers at 50%

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Half of insured women age 40 to 85 undergo the recommended yearly mammography screening, according to a study being presented at the 33rd annual Cancer Therapy and Research Center-American Association for Cancer Research San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Following last year's U.S. Preventive Services Task Force revised recommendation that women begin biennial mammography screening at 50 years of age, rather than 40, surveys have found that 70 percent of women still supported screening in their 40s. "Women reacted strongly to that recommendation with protests about their right to have an annual mammogram that should not be taken away," noted the present study's lead author, Milayna Subar, MD, vice president and national practice leader for oncology at Medco Research Institute in Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Subar and co-authors sought to measure actual screening rates, according to age, in a sample of insured American women, reviewing medical claims from more than 12 million women, aged 40 to 85, over a four-year period.

Despite widespread support among women for mammography screening, Subar and colleagues "found that a large percentage of women do not get regular mammograms." Across all age groups, just 50 percent of women underwent a mammogram in any given year, while 60 percent of women underwent at least two screenings within the four-year study period.

Women aged 40 to 49 had the lowest average annual screening rates, 41 percent, while the 50 percent of women aged 50 to 64 who underwent annual mammographies represented the highest screening rates. The average annual rate of screening among women 65 to 85 years old was 44 percent.

"Although surveys indicate that over 70 percent of women support mammographic screening between ages 40-49, these data suggest that even among an insured population, many women do not have claims evidence of even one mammogram in four years and almost half of women do not receive biannual or more frequent mammography," the authors pointed out.

"These data also indicate that additional efforts are needed to reach the HealthyPeople 2010 goal of at least 70 percent of women aged 40 years or older having a mammogram in the past two years," the authors concluded.