Don't Ignore the Doc's Advice

50 percent of US women between 40 and 85 years of age are not getting recommended mammograms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) According to new data, about half of eligible women in the United States are not receiving recommended annual mammograms, even if their health insurance pays for the procedure.

This finding was presented at the 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antionio Breast Cancer Symposium.

In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that the age of first mammogram be raised from 40 to 50 years of age, consequently causing a public outcry. As of yet, major insurance companies and other organizations have no acted on the Task Force's recommendation.

According to Milayna Subar, M.D., vice president and national practice leader for oncology at Medco Health Solutions, Inc., "Women reacted strongly to that recommendation with protests about their right to have an annual mammogram that should not be taken away." She adds, "Interestingly though, we found that a large percentage of women do not get regular mammograms."

Subar and colleagues reviewed medical insurance claims between January 2006 and December 2009. Drawing from a database of more than 12 million people, the researchers analyzed data on women with either employer-provided insurance or Medicare.

They found that only 50 percent of women between the ages of 40 and 85 years had a mammogram in any given year. In that same age bracket, only 60 percent received two or more mammograms in a four year period. Among those women who were 40 to 49 years of age, 47 percent had a mammogram in any given year. Similarly, average annual mammography rates were 54 percent for women aged 50 to 64 years and 45 percent for women aged 65 years and older.

Although there are several theories as to why so many women do not receive mammograms, the researchers of this study did not explore the topic. However, according to Subar, those theories include discomfort from the test, lack of available screening centers, and general non-compliance or denial.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 12, 2010
Last Updated:
July 5, 2013