KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Health Law Includes Help For Young Women With Breast Cancer

Kaiser Health News: "A little-noticed section in the health-care overhaul aims to raise awareness among young women and their doctors about the risk of breast cancer between the ages of 15 and 44. The law directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create education campaigns that will focus on breast cancer and young women, and encourage healthful habits that promote prevention and early detection of the disease. The law also provides grants to groups that support young women with breast cancer. And it directs the National Institutes of Health to develop new screening tests and other methods to prevent breast cancer in young women and improve early detection" (Andrews, 9/28).

NPR's Shots Blog: "Under current screening guidelines, women don't begin routine screening for breast cancer until at least age 40" and experts suggest that they shouldn't. "For women under 40 this is a rare disease," says Dr. Therese Bevers, medical director of the cancer prevention center at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas in Houston. "The benefit wouldn't outweigh the risk because the vast majority won't get breast cancer." But Bevers says some women with no risk factors still have a genetic mutation that causes the disease. "That's why the research section of the law is the most important of the provisions dealing with young women and breast cancer," she says (Andrews, 9/28).

The Washington Post reports on a recent study on the controversial issue of how often women should get routine mammograms. "A study published in this week's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine analyzed data gathered in Norway between 1996 and 2005 on more than 40,000 women in their 50s and 60s. Regular mammograms reduced the risk of dying from breast cancer by just 10 percent, far less than had been thought even by the panel that raised questions about mammograms during the debate about overhauling the U.S. health-care system" (Stein, 9/27).

Politico: Meanwhile, "[b]reast surgeons and cancer advocates are lobbying Washington's lawmakers and regulators with a singular goal: Medicare coverage of custom breast prostheses for mastectomy patients. Advocates contend that breasts remain the only body part for which Medicare does not reimburse custom fabricated prosthetic replacements. … The push to cover this benefit - a back-and-forth struggle that has gone on for two years - is likely to become an increasingly familiar plot line as health reform comes into effect. The health care reform law requires insurers to cover a basic package of 'essential benefits' but gives only a broad outline of what it should include" (Kliff, 9/28). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.