A recent study suggests that breast cancer survivors aren’t getting regular follow-up mammograms – even when their insurance covers the procedure.

Most doctors recommend that women undergo frequent mammograms after surviving a breast cancer diagnosis in order to detect disease recurrence, and catch it in its earliest stages. However, a recent study published in the May issue of the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, suggests that many breast cancer survivors are not keeping up with their mammograms.

In the retroactive study, Dr. Kathryn Ruddy from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, found that the further survivors were from their breast cancer diagnosis, the less likely they were to undergo mammograms – even when they had health insurance.

Dr. Ruddy followed 27,212 breast cancer patients for a median of 2.9 years after definitive breast cancer surgery. One year after treatment, 13 percent of cohorts  had not followed up with any kind of imaging after surgery. By the 5th year, the

proportion of the remaining cohort (4790) who had no breast imaging was 19 percent. Dr. Ruddy also found that black women previously diagnosed with breast cancer were less likely than white women to follow their doctors’ mammography recommendations.

There was one common denominator among the women in the study: they all had health insurance.

As a retroactive study based on administrative health insurance claims, Dr. Ruddy’s work has a number of limitations – but it raises important questions. The most pertinent being: what are the reasons that an insured breast cancer survivor wouldn’t follow up on mammograms when the non-invasive procedure could literally save her life?

At Bergen Imaging Center we believe in educating all women—especially those who have had a breast cancer diagnosis in NJ—about the importance of mammograms. Mammograms save lives, but only if you show up for the appointment.