Barriers Including Cost and Isolation Keeping Women From Mammograms: CDC

A number of health-related social needs are keeping women from accessing regular mammograms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including cost and social isolation.

A new report from the CDC found that about one in four women ages 50 to 74 years-old had not received a mammogram in the past two years in 2022 — a number that is even higher among women who have compounding health-related social needs.

Health-related social needs, according to the CDC, are “adverse social conditions that can be barriers to a person’s health or health care.”

Examples of these challenges include social isolation, job loss, lack of reliable transportation, insecurity around food or housing, and, most commonly in this case, the cost of accessing care.

The report, which analyzed data from the 2022 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance system, found that women who reported cost as a barrier to access health care had about two times the odds of not getting a mammogram.

The report found that women without health insurance, who had low incomes, and who did not have a usual source of care were less likely to get mammograms.

Only 66% of women with three or more health-related social needs had received a mammogram in the last year, compared with 83% of women with none of these needs.

About 42,000 women and 500 men in the United States die from breast cancer each year, according to the CDC, and Black women have a higher rate of death from breast cancer than all other women.

Getting mammograms regularly can help find breast cancer early when it is less advanced and easier to treat, the CDC says. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends that women between the ages of 50 and 74 years-old get a screening mammogram every two years.

The CDC says it’s important to identify the specific needs that individual women experience and coordinate efforts to provide services that reduce the impact of these needs.

Local programs can also help women overcome barriers to health care, the CDC says, such as Nevada’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, which hired community health workers to determine what would help women with low incomes get screenings and connect them to needed services. Tennessee’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program, which offered free rides to appointments, is another example.

Access to free or low-cost breast and cervical cancer screening services is available for women who have low incomes and are uninsured through state, tribe, and territory health departments funded by CDC’s National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, the report says. Mammograms are also available at no cost through most private health insurance plans and Medicare.

“We have to address these health-related social needs to help women get the mammograms they need,” said CDC Chief Medical Officer Debra Houry, M.D., in a news release. “Identifying these challenges and coordinating efforts between health care, social services, community organizations, and public health to help address these needs could improve efforts to increase breast cancer screening and ultimately save these tragic losses to families.”

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