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Yale research team questions breast cancer screening costs

If you spend more money on diagnostic screenings for breast cancer, that should logically equate to more accurate diagnoses and, ultimately, less money expended on treatment.

That is the premise that a medical team from the Yale School of Medicine regarded as reasonable and expected to see confirmed through its recent study of Medicare expenditures on screenings and treatment.

Unfortunately, that is not what the research results revealed.

"[W]e didn't find that," says lead researcher Dr. Cary Gross. Instead, the Yale team found this: Medicare spends about $1.1 billion annually on breast cancer screenings (mammograms) and about $1.4 billion on treatment.

Gross says that the screening costs should be much lower than that, and that they aren't reflects "a call to do further research to identify the best screening strategy."

Gross queries: "If we're spending more, does it really help the patients?"

In areas where more money is spent, the Yale researchers did not observe more optimal outcomes Moreover, a whopping $411 million of Medicare's annual screening costs are incurred for women over 75 years old. That is noteworthy, given a 2009 recommendation from the United States Preventative Service Task Force stating that women in that age population might not receive much benefit generally from breast cancer screenings.

Gross reserves judgment on the efficacy of mammograms, preferring to simply point out that his team's look at the money trail should promote further study of cancer screening strategies.

If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of a missed breast cancer diagnosis or treatment that was ill-advised and unnecessary, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.

Source: ABC News, "Medicare pays $415M annually for breast cancer screenings in women over 75," Sydney Lupkin, Jan. 8, 2013

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