Bill aims to require insurance companies to cover 3D mammograms for women

3D Mammograms (KXAN Photo)
3D Mammograms (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Women in Austin are getting diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age, according to doctors with Austin Breast Imaging. The national average for woman who are diagnosed is 62, but here in Central Texas, doctors say they’re seeing women in their 40s, the average is 42 years old.

The bigger problem doctors say is most insurance companies don’t cover one of the most advanced tests for breast cancer, but a 45-year veteran lawmaker, Rep. Senfronia Thompson, from Houston, is trying to change that. Rep. Thompson filled House Bill 1036, which would require all insurance companies to cover 3D mammograms for Texas women.

“I know that if we are able to save the life of a woman, we save a community, we save a family,” Rep. Thompson said.

Rep. Thompson was diagnosed herself with breast cancer in 2003. She says if the newest technology was available when her diagnosis happened, she would’ve caught her cancer earlier.

“[The] 2D [mammogram] was mine and when I had a 2D technology, I had to go back and get another x-ray and then after that second x-ray and then I had to go and get the biopsy,” Rep. Thompson says. “Had 3D been available I would never had to go through the biopsy, I would never had to go through the second mammogram, it would’ve picked it up the first time.”

Doctors say the new 3D technology has been around since 2013, but still many insurance companies do not cover it for women.

“With standard 2D mammograms what we were doing before,was generating four static images, a very condensed image of the breast tissue. It was giving us very little information about what was going on inside,” Dr. Sri Yalamanchili, a radiologist at Austin Breast Imaging says. “With this [new 3D] technology, what we’ve been able to do is generate thousands of images through the breast tissue and we are able to see smaller lesions to detect smaller lesions at an earlier stage.”

In fact, Dr. Yalamanchili says their research has shown early detection of breast abnormalities in women has increased by 56 percent. With the higher success rate, doctors still wonder why more insurance companies don’t offer coverage.

“At this point in time, United Healthcare, is one of the only companies that will cover 3D mammograms,” Dr. Yalamanchili says. “As doctors we’re trying to be advocates for patients. This is a tool that is the most state of the art tool available and it’s going to decrease overall health care cost.”

It’s a tool Rep. Thompson says is crucial for all Texas women.

“What I’m trying to do is give an opportunity for women to be able to get a greater peace of mind and a greater ability to know that they are home free when they go and get that mammography done,” Rep. Thompson says.

A woman still fighting cancer, even though she’s cancer free. “It is a life, death situation because cancer has no friends with anyone, it is an enemy to mankind,” Rep. Thompson says.

Rep. Thompson says medicare also covers the 3D mammograms. HB 1036 has been assigned to the health committee for review.

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