Requiring insurers to pay for lots of mammograms is one of the features of Obamacare so presumably this billable procedure is going to become more popular here in the U.S. A new study, however, shows that the billions of dollars per year (NPR estimates) that Americans spend on mammograms is mostly wasted (New York Times).
This reminds me of a conversation that I had with a woman who turned 40 and had her first mammogram. The doctors found something that looked unusual and they told her that there was a significant chance that it was cancerous. I said “Doctors can’t understand basic probability. If you’d had a mammogram last year and the one this year showed something different then they might be correct. But given that this is their first look, the probability of a real problem is vastly lower than the number that they citing. I would wait a couple of years and let them do another one and see if anything has grown. Then let them cut you open.”
The woman accepted the advice of the top physicians at the Massachusetts General Hospital and let them cut her open, removing a portion of her breast tissue for a biopsy. They found nothing but left a scar a substantial bill for Blue Cross.