Reinforcing the Importance of Early Detection
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with leading breast cancer specialist Wendie Berg, MD, PhD, professor of radiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Magee Women’s Hospital of UPMC specializing in breast imaging. I asked Dr. Berg what still needs to be done in the fight against breast cancer and in reinforcing the importance of early detection.
She thinks there are two big tasks at hand: insurance issues for supplemental screening and education. “If we really want to realize the benefits that the FDA even mentions in their final rule, they say the reason we’re doing this is because this should improve early cancer detection, reduce the cost of treatment, reduce the morbidity of treatment and improve women’s health. If we’re going to realize that women have to know about it, they have to be able to act on it and have information to decide if they want to have additional screening. But insurance is the biggest barrier for that. We need a standard across the board so that no matter where a woman lives, she can access that,” she stressed.
Dr. Berg also mentioned a new piece of legislation called The Find it Early Act that Representative Rosa DeLauro (Connecticut) and Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (Pennsylvania) introduced at the end of the last congressional session and reintroduced in May. It would require a national standard with no copay or deductible across the board for all women to have access to appropriate breast screening, including diagnostic imaging. “If we find something that’s abnormal, then additional testing would also be covered up to the need for biopsy, at which point insurance would need to cover that,” Berg explained. “But I think that is a huge step. It’s a huge need. I would encourage everyone to follow up on that as it gets introduced.”
That other big issue is education. “We really need the patients to know they’re going to get the information now that their breasts are dense and they’re going to get information if they have dense breasts that they may benefit from supplemental screening, or that there are tests that may find more cancers. But we need to let them know what those tests are,” she stressed. “We also need to educate the referring physician community, because several studies that we’ve done through DenseBreast-info.org have shown there is a huge gap in referring provider knowledge about density and what to do about it. I think the biggest misunderstanding that we discovered was actually that they (referring physicians) thought that tomosynthesis or 3D mammograms were enough. Well, it isn’t — it’s a little bit better than a standard mammogram. It finds maybe one or two more cancers per 1,000,” Berg further noted.
ITN is committed to staying apprised of, and reporting on, the latest innovations and insights into screenings and imaging modalities to enhance women’s health. The value of additional screening is the focus of the article, “Saving Lives Through Improved Screening Awareness.”
You can view the full video interview with Dr. Berg here.