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Mammography Rates Drop

Health professionals across the nation and locally are seeing a drop in the number of women scheduling their annual mammograms. Michele Skalicky reports.

Healthcare professionals are seeing an alarming trend in women over 40--fewer women are scheduling their annual mammograms.

"Nationwide, there's a drop in screening mammography compliance rates."

Joanne Schahuber is director of the Breast Care Clinic at CoxHealth.

"There's a lot of factors feeding into that, but it's, of course, a concern to us, and we'd seen that in the literature for about the last six months to a year, but recently we've been seeing it here in our community a little bit more."

According to Schahuber, there are several theories as to why this is happening. One, she says, could be that women don't have a lot of confidence in screening mammography.

"This could be related to different things that they have read in the media and different technologies that are emerging, and perhaps there's some confusion in the general public about whether screening mammography is really a valuable thing, and there is no doubt that it is. It's still our first defense against breast cancer. It's the time-tested way to prevent deaths from breast cancer."

According to Schahuber, early detection saves lives, and mammograms are effective in detecting breast cancer. She says 90 to 95% of breast cancers can be detected by mammography in an early stage.

Women 40 and over are encouraged to have a mammography each year. Those with close family members who had breast cancer are advised to begin having mammograms 10 years before the age their relative was when they were diagnosed.

But some women who don't have health insurance or whose health insurance doesn't cover preventive care can't afford the procedure.

"It costs about $150, which, for some people, is not an attainable amount of money. There's a lot of changes in health insurance right now. Many smaller companies just cannot provide health insurance for their employees, and then other companies that maybe can provide health insurance for their employees, cannot provide the type of insurance that covers preventive health care."

Schahuber says there's financial help available for women who can't afford their annual mammogram.

The state of Missouri's Show Me Healthy Women, funded by the National Cancer Institute, provides health services for women who meet certain income guidelines, and Schahuber says the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks also offers financial assistance.