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Discuss Mammography Now

The history of breast cancer screening is anything but simple. Decades of research, consensus panels and guidelines have stirred up controversy when recommending, or failing to recommended, mammography among women younger than age 50. As debate in the scientific community and confusion in the public sector continues, Health Net Federal Services, LLC (HNFS) wants to encourage all providers to, at a minimum, take a moment to discuss mammography and its risks and benefits with all women. 

The chance a woman will be diagnosed with breast cancer over her lifetime is one in eight. This risk, however, is not evenly distributed across all women. Risk can vary due to variation in breast density, family history of breast cancer among first-degree relatives and personal history of breast biopsy, among other factors. 

While benefits and harms of mammography – particularly false-positive results – must be balanced, it is essential all women are informed about breast cancer screening. It is vital every woman understands that regular mammography screening is one of the most effective means of early breast cancer detection.  

As a physician, your recommendation is one of the most important factors that influences whether a woman obtains a mammogram. Consider these helpful tips and tools:

  • Evaluate a woman’s need for mammography during all routine office visits (including annual health exams and sick visits).
  • Have all staff (including physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners) discuss the need for and benefits of mammography.
  • When appropriate, recommend a mammogram and have office staff offer to help schedule an appointment before the patient leaves the office.
  • Call to remind women who miss their appointments.
  • Provide staff with regular feedback on the percentage of women who followed through on their mammogram appointments.

For TRICARE beneficiaries, one screening mammogram every 12 months is covered for women with no symptoms beginning at age 40. Women with a high risk* of breast cancer may receive screening mammograms beginning at age 35. In addition, mammograms for a woman with certain clinical symptoms are not limited to annual screenings. 

Working together we can help make a difference.

*High risk indicators include women with a personal history of breast cancer; a personal history of biopsy-proven benign breast disease; a mother, sister or daughter who has had breast cancer; and a woman who has not given birth prior to age 30.

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