Saving lives

October 15, 1991

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Sadly, however, in spite of the plethora of information, October remains just one ,, month out of 12 in which the most common cancer diagnosis among women will be breast cancer.

This year alone, 175,000 new cases will be discovered and 45,000 people will die. Many of them do not have to. Too often breast cancer is diagnosed at a late stage, when it is detectable as a lump. But statistics show that when it is detected early,

through mammograms, for instance, women have a better than 90 percent chance of survival. What kills tens of thousands of American women every year is often not the cancer itself but late diagnosis. And that translates into a lack of screening.

Physicians recommend that every woman over 50 have a mammogram every year, and that those between 40 and 50 have one every other year. State law mandates that all private insurance cover minimal screening, and Medicare (for which only women over 65 are eligible) covers $50 of screening every other year, twice the period recommended between mammograms. That insurance covers this service at all is a fairly recent occurrence and certainly an important recognition of the need for early diagnosis. Still the reality is that there are very few sites where mammograms are available for less than $50.

To help bridge the gap, Maryland's Health Service Cost Review Commission has offered community hospitals throughout the state the opportunity to make low-cost screening available, in part by increasing costs a few cents in other areas. There is, now, no good excuse for not offering affordable mammograms in every community hospital in Maryland. And there is no better time for making a commitment than Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

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