Despite a nearly $300 million increase in Medicare spending linked to a sharp rise in the use of newer, more-sensitive breast-cancer screening technologies, no changes were seen in early detection rates, a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found. Healthcare dollars may be wasted, some experts say, when widespread adoption of a new test precedes evidence of its meaningful clinical benefit.
Annual Medicare spending for screening mammography increased from $666 million for the period 2001-2002 to $962 million for the period 2008-2009, according to the JNCI study from researchers at Yale University School of Medicine.
Researchers followed two cohorts of women for two-year periods, including 137,150 women between 2001 and 2002, and 133,097 women between 2008 and 2009.
The number of women screened using digital imaging jumped from 2% in the 2001-2002 timeframe to 29.8% in the 2008-2009 timeframe, and the use of computer-aided detection rose from 3.2% to 33.1% over those two time periods. However, use of these technologies did not lead to changes in cancer detection rates, the researchers found.