SAN ANTONIO, Dec, 9, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- As the debate continues over the appropriate frequency and age for mammography screenings to detect breast cancer, a new study shows that a large percentage of women are simply not getting tested often enough, falling far short of recommendations by leading medical groups and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The analysis from the Medco Research Institute™, a research subsidiary of Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MHS), is being presented at The 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
The study examined medical claims data during a four-year period from 2006 through 2009 and found that only 50 percent of women aged 40 and older had yearly mammograms, and those between 40 and 50 years old had an even lower screening rate.
While the American Cancer Society and other leading medical groups have continually called for yearly routine mammograms in women 40 and older, the USPSTF issued guidelines in November 2009 recommending biennial screenings (once every two years) for women starting at age 50, triggering a heated national debate.
"Surveys done following the USPSTF recommendations showed that the vast majority of women support yearly mammograms starting at age 40. However, this study suggests that even among an insured population, many women do not meet that target and a surprising number do not even have one mammogram in four years," said Dr. Milayna Subar, lead author of the study and National Practice Leader for the Medco Oncology Therapeutic Resource Center® (TRC).
The study found that during the four-year period, nearly 40 percent of women aged 50 and older did not satisfy even the reduced goals recommended by the USPSTF of biennial mammograms, and almost one-in-four did not have one at all.
"These findings provide stark evidence that we need to do a much better job at encouraging women to have regular mammograms," said breast cancer specialist Dr. Marisa Weiss, founder and president of Breastcancer.org, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer through a routine mammogram. "Mammography detects 80 to 90 percent of breast cancers in asymptomatic women; so while it is not a perfect detection tool, it's the best we currently have for saving lives and finding cancers at an early stage so that less toxic and traumatic treatments are required. Unfortunately, it appears that the ongoing debate about guidelines may be even further discouraging women from having regular screenings."
Beginning in 2011, any female Medco member aged 40 and older, whose coverage includes the new Optimal Health® "At Risk" targeted program through their employer or health plan, will receive phone counseling that will include monitoring to determine if they have had a mammogram in the past one to two years.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that one-in-eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, and the American Cancer Society estimates that about 207,000 new cases of invasive cancer will be diagnosed in 2010.
The study examined de-identified medical claims for mammograms among American women ages 40 and older between January 2006 and December 2009 using Medco's integrated database. Annual mammography screening rates were determined for more than 1.5 million women who had health insurance throughout the four year period.
For more information about this study, visit www.medcoresearchinstitute.com.
About Medco Research Institute
Medco Research Institute™ is an evidence-based research organization focused solely on novel research, analytics and new discoveries that close the gap between scientific discovery and medical practice for improved patient outcomes and lower overall healthcare costs. More information about the Medco Research Institute's peer-reviewed research can be found at www.medcoresearchinstitute.com.
Medco Health Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MHS) is pioneering the world's most advanced pharmacy® and its clinical research and innovations are part of Medco making medicine smarter™ for approximately 65 million members.
With more than 20,000 employees dedicated to improving patient health and reducing costs for a wide range of public and private sector clients, and 2009 revenues of nearly $60 billion, Medco ranks 45th on the Fortune 500 list and is named among the world's most innovative, most admired and most trustworthy companies. For more information, go to http://www.medcohealth.com.
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SOURCE Medco Health Solutions, Inc.