Monday, July 20, 2009

Breast Cancer Screening is Good for Women, Business

Prevention and early detection are the keys to fighting breast cancer.

Yet many women are putting off mammograms and treatment due to economic hardships and changing healthcare plans, according to a community profile commissioned by Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s Milwaukee affiliate.

“Breast health in these economic times kind of falls by the wayside,” said Jessica Bergstrom, associate researcher for the Center of Urban Population Health, a partnership of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Aurora Health Care and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

This should be a significant concern for businesses.

The price can be high as employees lose substantial time, sometimes months while they are undergoing treatment for breast cancer that was not caught in its early stages. Any business is adversely affected by employee absences, but this is also a matter of saving lives.

It is also more cost-effective to catch breast cancer early, when lower levels of treatment are needed. That’s why screening is so important.

The community profile, underwritten by Aurora Health Care and which covered the Milwaukee Komen affiliate’s eight-county area of Southeastern Wisconsin, showed that:

Under-insured women – those with high deductibles, high co-pays, minimal health insurance coverage that is often just for catastrophic emergencies and age restrictions imposed by insurance companies– often skip screening because of the cost, cannot afford time off work or fear being fired for taking additional time off of work.
There is a need for more free mammograms and financial support for screening and elimination of access to treatment barriers
Uninsured and under-insured women require preventative care that is often not available to them because of the financial and work-related factors.
More focus on preventative care is needed.

With an average cancer treatment costing more than $200,000, the stakes are high for both women and businesses in Southeast Wisconsin, as more than 1,300 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer by the end of 2009. Of those, more than 260 will die. Milwaukee, Waukesha and Racine counties have both the highest incidence and highest mortality rates.

It is important for mammograms to be readily available to all women regardless of their insurance status. The barriers to early detection simply must fall, and businesses can play a role by encouraging employees to get screened and requiring health insurers to provide screening coverage and preventative care.

Based on the findings of the community profile, Komen for the Cure Milwaukee Affiliate recommends:

Lower the risk of dying from breast cancer by having a early mammograms starting at age 40 if you are average risk and yearly clinical breast exams starting at age 20.
Early diagnosis. As screening increases, it is crucial that women have access to diagnostic tests following an abnormal breast cancer screening to ensure early diagnosis and high quality care
Continuum of care throughout treatment. Treatment plans vary for each woman, depending on a number of factors. It is important that women receive proper support throughout her treatment to address all of her needs.

Screening and treatment of breast cancer can save lives. But it can also save businesses lost employee time and possibly the cost of increasing health insurance premiums, especially for smaller businesses.

Mammograms and treatment need to be readily available to all women. It’s good for employees. And it’s good for business.

Sally Sheperdson
Executive Director
Komen Milwaukee Affiliate

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