As any woman who’s had one knows, having a mammogram isn’t fun. It requires exposing some of your most private and tender parts, and to hold still while your breasts are pressed against the machine. The wait for the test results can be excruciating.
Getting women past the emotional and physical discomfort to the real and profound payoff — that the images can detect breast cancer at the earliest stages and save lives every day — is a daily struggle for advocacy groups.
It is no accident that advocacy groups welcome high profile stories of women like Wanda Sykes and Robin Roberts — sharing can make the whole process less scary. If they can make it through, so can I, is the thinking.
For some women, getting a mammogram is easy. But for others, any barrier to getting it scheduled and done is a reason to abandon the effort.
So the state of Connecticut’s decision to drastically cut Medicaid funding for mammograms and other imaging, is likely to have a profound and negative impact on this decades long effort to convince women to get life-saving breast cancer screenings.
The funding cuts hit private radiology practices the hardest, reimbursing doctors about $6 for an X-ray or mammogram, hardly enough to pay for the cost of imaging machinery and the physician’s time to interpret the screening.
If radiology practices are not making enough money to pay their bills, they’ll close. The result will be fewer available appointments in fewer offices, reducing access for everyone.
And there it is. The reason not to get a mammogram: I can’t get an appointment. Or if you can get an appointment, it’s months away, and may not detect a cancer as early as doctors might otherwise detect it with a timely image.
We know that mammograms save lives. Jacqueline Roberts, a courageous woman who has come to Hartford to testify on this issue, credits a mammogram with saving her life.
In my work outside of the Connecticut Senate, I work with breast cancer survivors to bring the message that early detection is the key to survival.
But that effort has been made more difficult with Connecticut’s budget cuts. I urge the state legislature to restore the very reasonable, federally matched funds for radiology. At a time when mammograms are the accepted standard of care for preventing breast cancer deaths, anything less is a step backward.
State Sen. Marilyn Moore wrote this op-ed on behalf of the Radiological Society of Connecticut and also is founder, President and CEO of The Witness Project, which seeks to address and reduce breast cancer mortality.
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