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“The opportunity to talk to my physician about what it meant to have dense breasts could have been important to me,” said Lewerenz, who will forever wonder if earlier detection could have meant treating the cancer with a simple removal procedure rather than multiple surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation.
A key question regarding the mandate is whether insurers will cover alternative screenings for women with dense tissue.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, the state’s largest insurer, doesn’t have a policy but “works closely with providers and supports their judgment for when additional evidence-based imaging studies may be necessary,” said Dr. Paul Karazija, Blue Cross’ vice president and executive medical director for commercial and government programs.
Letters with mammogram results started going out from Mayo Clinic this month with information on tissue density. The response has been so mild that the clinic’s director, Dr. Karthik Ghosh, wonders if women are reading beyond the first sentence indicating a negative test result.
“You know what happens with those letters,” she said.
Ghosh said mammograms are 88 percent accurate for women with little tissue density but still 62 percent accurate for women with extreme density, so women should continue to undergo testing. On the other hand, she noted, women shouldn’t dismiss lumps in their breasts just because their mammograms were negative.
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744