Breast Cancer Exams Not a Given for Some Women

By Christine Cupaiuolo — December 12, 2006

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but a new study breaks down very clearly the bias against poor women and the elderly when it comes to getting clinical breast exams and recommendations for a mammogram. The study, which looked at physician office visits by women 40 and older from 1996 through 2004, is published on the website of the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. Some highlights:

– The researchers found that women who see an ob-gyn for routine check ups were 18 times more likely to receive a clinical breast exam than if they visited any other kind of physician, including internists or family physicians. Ob-gyns were also 13 times more likely to recommend that their patients schedule a mammogram.

– The type of insurance coverage a woman had was also a decisive factor. Compared to women with private health insurance, women with public health insurance (such as Medicaid and Medicare) were up to 30 percent less likely to receive a clinical breast exam. Doctors were up to 55 percent less likely to recommend that these women schedule a mammogram.

– Age also played a determining role. Women younger than 75 were roughly 1.5 times more likely to receive a clinical breast exam, and up to twice as likely to get a recommendation for a mammogram.

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