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Program helps low-income women get mammograms, study shows

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HealthDay News
A program giving low-income women mammograms if they are hospitalized can help catch life-threatening cancer that might otherwise go undiagnosed. File Photo by Tim Jensen/U.S. Navy
A program giving low-income women mammograms if they are hospitalized can help catch life-threatening cancer that might otherwise go undiagnosed. File Photo by Tim Jensen/U.S. Navy

Giving low-income women mammograms when they're hospitalized can boost their breast cancer screening rates, according to a new study.

Getting cancer screening tests can be challenging for low-income women due to factors such as a lack of transportation and not being able to take time off work, so researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital examined the impact of giving these women mammograms when they're hospitalized.

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They identified 21 Medicaid and dual-eligible women, average age 59, who were admitted to the hospital's General Medicine service and were overdue for mammograms.

Four were discharged from the hospital before mammograms could be coordinated, but 17 got mammograms.

RELATED AI boosts accuracy of mammogram screening for breast cancer

Of those 17, 35% had never had a mammogram and the other women were overdue for their mammograms by an average of four years.

All the mammograms were negative, except one that was inconclusive. Additional imaging evaluation was recommended for the woman to rule out cancer.

Having a mammogram did not increase the patients' hospital length of stay, according to the study published this month in the Annals of Family Medicine.

RELATED Study: Mammograms in 40s catch cancer, don't fuel overdiagnosis

"We designed the study to reach the patients who face significant barriers to completing their mammograms in the outpatient setting," said study first author Dr. Andrew Hwang, an internist at the hospital.

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"National and local data show that Medicaid and dual-eligible patients have low rates of breast cancer screening. This targeted strategy has the potential to reduce disparities in cancer screening rates by addressing patients' acute medical needs and their preventive care needs simultaneously," he said in a hospital news release.

"The patients who participated in our pilot study faced significant psychosocial challenges to completing outpatient prevention tests," Hwang said.

RELATED Study: Many older Americans get cancer screens they don't need

"Attaining equitable health outcomes for all patients will require innovative solutions that lower the barriers to care by addressing patients' psychosocial needs," he said. "Completing preventive screening tests, such as mammograms, during hospitalizations can be one way to help patients who might otherwise miss preventive care."

More information

The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more on mammograms.

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