In December 2015, State Rep. Nicole Collier, D- Fort Worth, faced that moment of terrifying uncertainty that plagues too many women. She felt pain in her left breast.
“I thought I had just pulled a muscle exercising,” she said. Since she was traveling Collier decided to wait to visit the doctor. She thought the pain would eventually go away. It continued. .
“I didn’t have a primary doctor so I went to an emergency clinic,” she remembered. At the clinic she underwent a 2-D or two-dimensional mammogram which should have detected the tumor but didn’t. A breast surgeon then recommended Collier get a 3-D mammogram which provides images of the breast from different angles and can more effectively find abnormalities.
Some physicians or patients were side-stepping the high-tech screening because it wasn’t always covered by insurance, and could cost a patient around $100.
In Collier’s case 3-D screening detected her tumor and she believes it saved her life.
“I wanted it to be available to all women,” she said.
More Effective Mammography Now Available Without Added Cost
Now thanks to legislation passed by Collier and other state lawmakers last year, the more thorough 3-D mammogram is available to patients who are at least 35 years old. And there’s no additional cost.
As of January 1, Texas became the sixth state requiring commercial health insurance companies to cover the cost of 3-D mammograms in addition to the traditional 2-D screenings.
It’s cause for real New Year’s fireworks. Breast cancer affects more women than any other type of cancer. One in eight will receive the diagnosis, and detecting it early can save lives.
A word of caution, however. The new law doesn’t mean women will automatically be offered the newer, improved test.
Be Assertive and Request 3-D Mammography
Chilcoat recommends women ask for it.
“It’s worth seeking,” she said.
According to Chilcoat, breast cancer specialists used to believe 3-D mammography was primarily beneficial for patients with dense breast tissue, but many now believe it is a helpful screening for all mammography patients.
“It finds more cancers of all sizes and at earlier stages,” said Chilcoat, and there are fewer false positives that require patients to be retested.
So, what should a woman do to ensure they have access to 3-D?
Ask for it when you schedule your mammogram. Make sure your screening center provides it. If it doesn’t, Chilcoat recommends you reschedule with a screening facility that does.
A 2-D mammogram is better than no mammogram, said Chilcoat.
But now that some caring lawmakers have fought the battle to provide this life-saving tool, take advantage of it. Remember- you no longer have to pay extra for the more effective test.