Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

3-D Screen for Breast Cancer Now Covered State Announces Change in Policy

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

3-D Screen for Breast Cancer Now Covered State Announces Change in Policy

Article excerpt

A relatively new and promising tool in the fight against breast cancer, 3-D mammograms, also known as tomosynthesis, now will be covered by health insurance, under a policy change by the Wolf administration.

At Monday's meeting of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition in Harrisburg, Frances Wolf, wife of Gov. Tom Wolf, announced that 3-D mammograms are now covered by insurance under existing Pennsylvania law and must be offered to Pennsylvania women. Before the policy change, women were being prescribed the screenings, only to find they had to pay for them.

The 3-D technology was approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration in February 2011, and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC began using it in September of that year.

Surgeon Thomas Julian, division director for breast surgical oncology for Allegheny Health Network, said the expanded coverage, referred to as a clarification by a state Insurance Department spokesman, is a positive step.

"For women at large who are at breast cancer risk, this is absolutely an advancement and opportunity for them," he said. "It will give them access to advanced technology for breast cancer detection. The cancer can be found at an earlier stage and treated in much more effective fashion, possibly with less treatment."

He said among those helped are women with extremely dense breast tissue, who sometimes have follow-up screenings because cancerous tissue may lie hidden in 2-D screenings. Two other groups that would benefit are women who have already had breast cancer treatment (3-D imaging can differentiate between cancer and tissue changed from surgery or radiation) and women at extremely high risk -whether from a strong family history or genetic factors.

"We're offering it to everybody," said William Poller, director of breast imaging for Allegheny Health Network, who added that even women with fatty or scattered areas of density benefit from the method. The area's largest hospital systems, UPMC and Allegheny Health, offer 3-D screening. Dr. Poller said that by the end of the year Allegheny Health plans to offer tomosynthesis at every screening site. …

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