Article on digital mammography dismays backers of breast imaging | A new report published this week has harsh words for digital mammography, saying the technology was adopted due to heavy industry lobbying and is costing the U.S. Medicare system millions more than film-based imaging, despite an alleged lack of evidence that it’s any better for older women.

The report was published on January 30 under the title “Unproven for Older Women, Digital Mammography Saps Medicare Dollars” by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI), a nonprofit research organization that specializes in investigative journalism. The article also was published in the February 7 issue of Newsweek under the headline “The Mammogram Hustle,” as one of the first articles in a new content collaboration deal in which Newsweek pays CPI for exclusive articles.

The study claims that digital mammography has become the standard of care for breast screening for women older than 65 without clear evidence of its superiority to film-based imaging — a situation that’s been driven by higher reimbursement for digital imaging compared to analog mammography.

But breast imaging advocates believe the study only tells half the story, with the article glossing over a number of digital mammography’s proven benefits. What’s more, several mammography experts who were interviewed for the article felt the reporters approached the subject with an agenda — to publish a follow-the-money exposé of a discipline that is actually one of the most cash-starved modalities in radiology.

“I think the article was incredibly irresponsible,” said Etta Pisano, MD, dean of the College of Medicine and vice president of medical affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “There are lots of things that Medicare is wasting money on, and digital mammography isn’t one of them.”


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