Breast cancer screening: a powerful tool for detection

Emory Report | July 20, 2021

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Regular breast cancer screening is one of the most powerful tools to detect breast cancer — and involves no out-of-pocket cost for employees on an Emory medical plan. Speak to your physician about scheduling an annual mammogram.

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Regular breast cancer screening is one of the most powerful tools against breast cancer. That’s why a mammogram (an X-ray of the breast meant to help detect early signs of breast cancer) is an important addition to a woman’s health toolbox.

Michelle Murphy, director of operations at Emory Clinic primary care, has always been diligent about getting regular mammograms. After a routine mammogram in 2020, Murphy had an ultrasound and biopsy of a lump in her breast. The mass was stage one cancer so she had a lumpectomy (surgical removal of the mass) and went through chemotherapy and radiation. Fortunately, the cancer was caught early and her prognosis is very good.

Murphy began seeing a registered dietician who specializes in oncology and is eating a healthier diet to decrease the chance of reoccurrence.

“I truly believe that my prognosis is good, and I have been given a second chance at life,” Murphy says. “It is vitally important that you take advantage of this preventative screening and make yourself a priority. I had no signs or symptoms that indicated there was a problem.”

Screening mammograms can detect cancer before a tumor is big enough to cause symptoms or be felt on a physical exam.

Beginning at age 30, women should speak to their physician about their breast cancer risk. For women of average risk, annual screening mammography beginning at age 40 saves the most lives from breast cancer. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer or other risk factors may benefit from beginning screening before age 40. Talk with your doctor to see if this is right for you.

“Most women who get breast cancer have no family history of this disease,” says Rebecca Seidel, associate professor in radiology and breast imaging at Emory’s School of Medicine. “Speak to your primary care physician about scheduling your annual mammogram.”

If you are covered by an Emory University medical plan, there is no out-of-pocket cost for a mammogram because it is considered preventive care. It is covered at 100% when in-network providers are used through Tier 1 and 2 for the Aetna HSA and POS plans; out–of-network coverage will be subject to plan provisions after satisfying the deductible. A mammogram is also covered at 100% if you have the Kaiser Permanente Plan.

Visit the Human Resources wellness page for more information.