| Thu, May 05, 2016 @ 09:00 AM

Breast Cancer: We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

breast-cancer-awarenessIt wasn’t so long ago that a breast cancer diagnosis often meant major surgery, months of radiation and a dubious prognosis. In fact, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that the overall 5-year survival rate for breast cancer was 75% in 1997. By 2007, it had increased to 90% mainly due to advances in detection and treatment.

Today, NCI statistics put the 5-year survival rate for stage I breast cancer at 100% and for stage II at 93%. There is no room for complacency, though.

Mammograms Still Recommended

Early detection is one key to successful breast cancer treatment, and regular screening mammograms are the standard of care.

Women who are used to getting a yearly mammogram starting at age 40 as recommended by the American Cancer Society may be confused by recent news that this standard may be changing. Guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force suggest that women have a mammogram every two years starting at age 50. The Task Force further suggests that there is little evidence to support screening mammograms for women age 75 and older.

The bottom line is that you and your doctor need to discuss and agree on when to start and how often you should get screening mammograms. Women with a family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may want to start getting mammograms at a younger age and stick to a once-yearly schedule. Older women not at high risk may decide to stop getting mammograms. Be sure to talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.

Medicare Covers Annual Mammograms

Medicare pays for annual screening mammograms for all female Medicare beneficiaries age 40 or older. Medicare will also pay for one baseline mammogram for female Medicare beneficiaries between the ages of 35 and 39. There is no deductible requirement for this benefit and you pay nothing for the service as long as your doctor accepts Medicare.

It’s important to note the difference between a screening mammogram and a diagnostic mammogram. A screening mammogram helps identify a possible cancer. A diagnostic mammogram is used to look more closely at a possible cancer to help determine whether or not it actually is cancer.

Medicare covers 80% of the Medicare-approved amount for a diagnostic mammogram, and you would be responsible for the remaining 20%. The Part B deductible would also apply.

It’s a good idea to ask how much any medical test, item, or service will cost. The specific amount may depend on whether you have other insurance, how much your doctor charges, the type of facility, etc.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


Breast Cancer Early Detection: Get this downloadable guide from the American Cancer Society.

Medicare & You: Get the U.S. government’s official Medicare handbook.

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