2016: A Banner Year for Breast Health

Top 4 advancements in women’s breast health cited

2016 was a monumental year for women’s breast health, with major advancements including the addition of insurance coverage of 3-D mammography by Cigna, increased efforts by the NFL to drive women to make breast health a priority, developments in research that prove the impact of screening patients ages 40 to 49, and research that confirmed there is no need to observe a cutoff age for mammography.

Solis Mammography, an independent healthcare provider of breast imaging services that celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016, cited these highlights for women’s breast health in the past year.

“We celebrate improvements that help us better serve our patients in the critically important area of breast health,” said James Polfreman, president and CEO, Solis Mammography.

The following are the top four advancements in breast health research and awareness that helped create a banner year, according to Solis Mammography:

  1. Cigna announced it would begin providing insurance coverage for 3-D mammograms, becoming the first national private insurer to cover tomosynthesis (3-D).
    Aug. 23 — the day Cigna made the announcement — was a monumental day for women and women’s breast health. Medicare announced coverage in January 2015, and for the past 20 months, certain private insurers added coverage, but only in select regional markets. Cigna based the change on published clinical research from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which highlighted the benefits of 3-D mammograms. The insurer now provides coverage of 3-D mammograms for annual breast cancer screening for all women over age 40 and for women at high risk starting at age 25.
  1. The National Football League (NFL) provides a direct call to action for women’s breast health by encouraging and raising the importance of making time for annual breast cancer screening.
    Since the inception of the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign in 2009, it has raised nearly $15 million in the fight against cancer. Additionally, in October 2016, the NFL ran a series of commercials during prime time football games that showed celebrity athletes filling in for busy women and moms so they had time to go get their annual mammogram. The commercials highlighted a call to action that reinforced the importance of preventative health and regular screening — both key tenets of early detection.
  1. Stephen Rose MD, chief medical officer of Solis Mammography and president of Rose Imaging Physicians Group, presented his abstract on Tomosynthesis’s Impact on Screening Patients 40 to 49  (comparing 3-D to 2-D) on Nov. 27 at the Radiological Society of North America 2016 Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting in Chicago.
    The addition of tomosynthesis (3-D) to mammography in women 40 to 49 years old shows improved outcomes in recall rates and cancer detection rates (similar to the general population) versus 2-D mammography. Tomosynthesis (3-D) addresses a primary concern regarding screening women who are in their 40s by reducing recall rates as cited in both the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and American Cancer Society guideline changes. Adding 3-D to mammography takes about the same amount of time as digital mammography yet takes around 60 pictures. Radiologists can now see cancers as early as stage zero with tomosynthesis (3-D). Rose commented, “Our study is confirming the benefits of tomosynthesis. For a disease with no known form of prevention, early detection is key, and the earliest detection is with tomosynthesis, especially in women under 50 years old with dense beast tissue.”
  1. In the largest study ever on screening mammography outcomes, researchers found that there is no clear cutoff age to stop breast cancer screening.
    The findings presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America by Dr. Cindy S. Lee, assistant professor in residence at the University of California San Francisco, and her research team lended support to the argument that the decision on whether or not to stop screening should be informed by an individual’s personal health history and preferences. Using the largest amount of data ever gathered from the National Mammography Database, Lee and her research team analyzed data from more than 5.6 million screening mammograms performed over a seven-year period between January 2008 and December 2014 in 150 facilities across 31 states in the U.S. The research team looked at patient demographics, screening mammography results and biopsy results. Data from more than 2.5 million women over age 40 was sorted into patient groups by age in 5-year intervals (40-44, 45-49, etc.). Overall, researchers found a mean cancer detection rate of 3.74 per 1,000 patients, recall rate of 10%, PPV2 of 20% and PPV3 of 29%. Based on increasing age from 40 to 90 years old, these performance metrics demonstrated a gradual upward trend for cancer detection rate, PPV2 and PPV3, but a downward trend in recall rate.

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