Focus at Four: New law requires insurers to cover 3D mammograms in Texas

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX) - Beginning in January, Texas will require commercial insurers to cover the cost of 3D mammograms.

The state already requires coverage of 2D mammograms, and getting the 3D screening can cost patients an extra $100 or so.

Thursday on First News at Four, we spoke with Dr. Eric Applet, a radiologist that works with Bryan Radiology Associates, and also at the College Station Medical Center. Those are the only two facilities that currently have 3D mammogram technology in use currently in Brazos County, according to Dr. Applet.

Click here to read the full story from The Texas Tribune.

"The cancer detection rate, per literature out there, can be between 10%-50% greater doing 3D mammograms," Applet said. "You can catch cancers you can't see, and you can catch cancer earlier."

According to our reporting partners at The Texas Tribune, a mandate, approved by the Legislature earlier this year, stemmed from a proposal by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston — a breast cancer survivor.

"It's important to thousands and thousands of women," she said. "Because if you went to get a 3-D mammogram, you know you are safe, you don't have to worry about something growing inside of you. Or, you've been able to detect it early on."

In an examination room at an Austin Radiological Association Diagnostic Imaging center, radiology technologist Shadak Kiankarimi demonstrated the way an arm on the mammography machine arcs over the breast, capturing images from every angle. The machine analyzes each picture and cuts it into one-millimeter slices, resulting in 16 or more images.

"Over the past two to three years, it has become more and more the gold standard of mammography," said Julia Austin, spokesperson for ARA Diagnostic Imaging. "There's so much greater ability to examine all the different features of the breast."

3-D mammography technology could enable earlier detection of a cancerous tumor that may not appear on a standard 2-D mammogram, said Dr. Therese Bevers, medical director of the Cancer Prevention Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

"I'm enthusiastic about 3-D mammography," Bevers said. "It's improving on the risk-benefit profile, improving the detection of breast cancer and reducing the recall rate, or false positives."

When a doctor finds a potential tumor on a 2-D mammogram, patients sometimes have to return for a follow-up screening and biopsy. With a 3-D mammogram, radiologists can be more certain about the diagnosis and patients can often avoid a biopsy altogether.

"When you do a 3-D mammogram, it takes an image, and then — just imagine peeling the onion. Peels it back, peels it back and peels it back and it gives the radiologist the opportunity to take a look at the breast in slices with the breast details," Thompson said. "When you get a biopsy, they just cut through your flesh with a sharp scalpel, and it's painful."