Insurance might not cover breast cancer detection method

Oct 30, 2013

Illinois requires insurance companies to cover routine mammograms.  But that doesn't necessarily include a new method of detecting breast cancer.

 A mammogram is a low-dose of x-rays doctors use to spot breast cancer.  An important tool, to be sure, but one that can result in false-positives.  Dr. Sarah Friedewald says that'll happen a lot less if women also get a 3-D mammogram.  Likewise, she says, the new technology makes it easier to spot abnormalities.

 "If you think of a book, if you want to use that, analogy, and you're able to look at each individual page through that book, we might be able to identify a cancer that is only seen on one of those pages of that book. Versus the 2-D mammogram, if you use that same analogy, all of the pages are superimposed on each other and it would be hard to pick up that cancer."

 Friedewald, who works at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, says two of Advocate's hospitals can do 3-D mammography tests. She says the facilities are hoping to add more, but the machines are expensive.  It also takes longer to read the results.  And even when it's available, she says some women not to get it done if their insurance doesn't cover it. 

 Enter state Senator John Mulroe, a Chicago Democrat.  Mulroe is in talks to require health care to plans to cover 3-D mammography.  He says it'll reduce costs in the long run by detecting cancer earlier.

 Insurers, however, are often wary of expanding policy requirements.