Your money or your breast? Mammogram recommendations could cost women out of pocket

Mammogram controversyRemember a few months ago when a government panel angered the American Cancer Society -- and a lot of women -- by announcing its new recommendations for breast cancer screenings? Many said "It'll never happen," and thought..."no one will listen..." But a survey by the Avon Foundation for Women released on Monday found a quarter of states in the U.S. have either reduced or eliminated screening mammography and other early detection services for women under 50.

And opponents of the panel's guidelines are crying foul.

According to the Avon survey, states like California, New York, Florida, Illinois and Michigan are among those that have made changes in their state's breast-cancer screening programs since the government panel released its guidelines. This move has angered and confused women.

"This is devastating for women," says two-time breast cancer survivor Lisa Flannigan of Chicago. "Women are using this [the panel's recommendations] to avoid having mammograms. They're gambling with their lives because one group has challenged years of proof that mammograms save lives."

That "proof" Flannigan refers to can be found in a statement on Avon's Web site that says routine mammography screenings have contributed to a 30% decrease in breast cancer mortality since 1990, when mammography screening became routine.

Echoing Hughes' sentiments are women wondering how the states' changes will affect not only their health, but their pocketbooks.

"I don't know who to listen to," confides Diana Hughes, a 43-year-old Phoenix woman. "I've had annual mammograms in the past and thankfully only had to pay a small $25 co-pay. But don't know if I need another one, and if I do, when I should have it. Or if I'd be willing to pay for a mammogram if my doctor doesn't recommend it and I"m forced to foot the bill."

According to the American Cancer Society, every woman age 40 or older should have an annual mammogram.
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