All new health plans written after September 23, 2010 stipulate that women must receive a free mammogram every year.  Also recommended is that women have a yearly clinical breast examination which, depending on your benefit details, might be covered by a doctor co-pay for a well care visit.  Also, it does not matter if you have a high deductible health plan.  You still get the mammogram for free.

My neighbor has been having tummy problems since last Thanksgiving.  She even got to celebrate turkey day in the emergency room.   She had a lot of pain in her gut and some fluid buildup.  For a couple of months they tried various remedies but nothing seemed to work.  She eventually had several rounds in the hospital where they would drain the fluid from her stomach and she would be ok and then she would start to feel sick to her stomach and unable to eat and get dehydrated and then back to the hospital and start all over.  About a month ago they started to run tests in earnest.  When she was first in the hospital they did notice a small lump in her breast but thought it was not anything to worry about.  I guess it was something to worry about because she is now receiving chemo for breast cancer!  So, even though I know everyone has heard and seen the signs to be aware. Although, it would be a good idea to go over them one more time:

According to the web site called “any of the following unusual changes in the breast can be a symptom of breast cancer:

  • Swelling of all or part of the breast
  • Skin irritation or dimpling
  • Breast pain
  • Nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • Redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • A lump in the underarm area

These changes also can be signs of less serious conditions that are not cancerous, such as an infection or a cyst.  It’s important to get any breast changes checked out promptly by a doctor.”

There are also some new imaging tools available.  Health Plans should pay for them but most likely the deductible will apply.  Molecular breast imaging (Scintimammography) is when a slightly radioactive tracer called technetium is injected into a vein. The tracer attaches to breast cells and some studies suggest that it may be almost as accurate as and cheaper than a MRI.  Also, there is Tomosynthesis which is 3D mammography. It may allow doctors to detect smaller lesions that would not be seen with standard mammograms.  This technology is still considered experimental so check with your insurance carrier to see if they will pay for it.