Mammography growth falls in Medicare group

January 3, 2007

Use of breast ultrasound and MRI in Medicare beneficiaries has been on the rise in a big way, but the picture of mammography utilization in this patient population is less rosy.

Use of breast ultrasound and MRI in Medicare beneficiaries has been on the rise in a big way, but the picture of mammography utilization in this patient population is less rosy. Following a big boost in the number of mammograms in the late 1990s, growth has flattened in recent years, possibly due to the fading of awareness programs or perhaps a decline in access related to center closures.

Between 1996 and 2004, the number of screening and diagnostic mammography studies rose by 45%, from 266 per 1000 women to 385 per 1000 women, according to data released by Dr. David Levin at the RSNA meeting.

Most of the growth took place between 1996 and 2000 (40%), however, with just 3% from 2000 to 2004, said Levin, emeritus chair of radiology at Jefferson Medical College and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

On the bright side, the analysis also indicates that breast ultrasound utilization rates grew strongly throughout the study period (from 15 per 1000 women to 33 per 1000).

MRI soared in terms of relative growth, although the absolute number of studies performed is still very small: 0.06 per 1000 women in 1996, increasing to 0.29 per 1000 women in 2004, a jump of 383%.