After a 36-year-old woman was charged nearly $18,000 for breast cancer screening, concerns have been raised about how much it should cost.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States – with 285,000 cases and 42,000 deaths per year – but if caught in the early stages, almost all patients survive.

Doctors recommend that all women between the ages of 50 and 74 get screened for the disease once a year, with those at the highest risk starting screening in their 40s.

According to experts, a screening test – mammogram – is generally free for all women over 40 years old and with health insurance. But those without signs or coverage may need to shell out $200 to $400.

If cancer is not found, no further action is required. But women with warning signs must have their results confirmed with a biopsy, which costs $1,000 to $2,000.

All the above costs are given as an average monetary value.  But these may be too low for some women, depending on their health insurance plan and the deductible they pay.  Some insurance plans—like the short-term types—may not offer free breast cancer screenings.

All the above costs are given as an average monetary value. But these may be too low for some women, depending on their health insurance plan and the deductible they pay. Some insurance plans—like the short-term types—may not offer free breast cancer screenings.

The graph above shows the rate of new breast cancer in women per 100,000 people (light green line) and the death rate (as dark green line). It shows that death is slowly decreasing

The chart above shows the age groups in which women are most likely to develop breast cancer. This is about 63 years old. Medicare offers free breast screening for those over 65

Women who go for a breast cancer screening are first referred for a mammogram, where small x-rays are shot into the breasts to check for abnormal growths or tissue abnormalities.

This is normally given as a 2D-scan where the lower and upper part of the breast is scanned. But some hospitals offer a 3D-scan, which also looks at the side of the breast. Those under 40 may be offered an MRI, as their tissue may be too thick for a mammogram.

Patients’ results are usually available after a week or two, with most tests finding nothing wrong with further testing.

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world.

Breast cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world and the second most common among women in the United States, after 285,000 cases and 40,000 deaths in the United States.

What is breast cancer?

Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell in a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.

Most cases occur in women over 50 years of age, but younger women are sometimes affected. Although this is very rare, breast cancer can occur in men.

Staging means how big the cancer is and how far it has spread. Stage 1 is the first stage and stage 4 means that the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

What causes breast cancer?

Cancer starts from an abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is not clear. A substance is thought to damage or change certain genes in a cell. This makes the cell abnormal and causes it to multiply ‘out of control’.

Although breast cancer can develop for no reason, there are certain risk factors, such as genetics, that increase the risk of developing breast cancer.

What are the symptoms?

A common first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid-filled cysts, which are healthy.

The first place breast cancer usually spreads is to the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this happens, swelling or swelling will occur in the armpit.

How is breast cancer treated?

Treatment options that may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and hormone therapy. Often a combination of these two or more treatment methods is used.

  • Surgery: Breast conserving surgery or removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumor.
  • Radiotherapy: Treatment that uses high-energy radiation aimed at cancer tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
  • Chemotherapy: Cancer treatment using anticancer drugs that kill cancer cells or prevent them from multiplying.

How successful is treatment?

The outlook is better for people diagnosed when the cancer is still small and has not spread. Surgical excision at an early stage may offer a good chance of cure.

Routine mammography for women between the ages of 50 and 70 means many breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an earlier stage.

But one in ten will call back for a biopsy, to double-check concerns on the mammogram. This involves removing a small amount of breast tissue – usually with a thin, hollow needle – which is then examined in a laboratory to check for cancer.

Doctors say not to worry if this happens, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation – a nonprofit in Texas – only one in five of these will lead to a breast cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Ge Bai, a health accountant at Johns Hopkins University, told that mammograms are generally free every year or for insured women over 40.

This is due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010 – also known as Obamacare – which was passed in 2010 and required all health insurance companies to start offering it, she said.

But the free offer comes with several caveats, Bai warned.

She said patients will be charged for the test if they have symptoms of breast cancer, are under 40, go more than once a year or have a 3D-version instead of a 2D type.

Some hospitals are pushing 3D mammograms — which look at the sides of the breast as well as the top and bottom — but the American Cancer Society says there’s no evidence they’re more likely to detect cancers that might otherwise be missed.

Some insurance plans, however, do not comply with the ACA and do not offer the free screening, she added. This may vary by state.

Medicaid — the U.S. health insurance program for poor Americans with 88 million beneficiaries — offers free checkups in most states, but does not cover better-paid women living in areas that did not receive the ACA’s expansion — such as Texas, Florida and Alabama. Medicare — which insures Americans over age 65 — also offers free screenings.

Any additional tests, such as biopsies, are not provided free of charge, and must be paid for by the patient or insurance.

Medical expenses also depend on the insurance status.

Bai told ‘For a woman over 40, you don’t have to pay anything for a breast cancer scan if your employer is compliant.

‘But in many cases this isn’t the case, and you have to pay any amount before the deduction hits your bill.’

A spokesperson for the American Cancer Society told, “In general, all ACA-compliant plans offer breast cancer screenings (and other preventive services) at no cost based on the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) guidelines.”

‘[However,] There are certain special notices and many non-compliant plans where different laws apply and state differences may be greater.’

Those under short-term plans or those from Christian Sharing Ministries — which offer cost-sharing to their members — cannot get free cancer screenings, he said.

Bai urges women worried about having to go out for breast cancer screenings to ask hospitals for cash prices — which are always lower than what is offered to insurance. , which are required to publish – although some still do not comply.

Asked how many mammograms and biopsies should be, Bai pointed to a research letter she published last year in the JAMA Network Open Journal.

For the paper, the researchers analyzed data on more than 70 procedures from 900 hospitals to determine the monetary value of each.

The results showed that the cash cost of a mammogram of both breasts was $277, although this varied between $190 and $400 depending on the hospital.

The team did not examine breast cancer biopsies, but Bai said the cost could be similar to biopsies for other cancers, such as colon cancer. The cash price for this is $2,000 ranging from $1,200 to $3,000.

Dani Yungling, now 36, a human resources worker in South Carolina, was billed a total of $17,979 (pictured) for an ultrasound-guided breast biopsy.  After checking the hospital's website, she expected to pay around $1,400 for the procedure.

Dani Yungling, now 36, a human resources worker in South Carolina, was billed a total of $17,979 (pictured) for an ultrasound-guided breast biopsy. After checking the hospital’s website, she expected to pay around $1,400 for the procedure.

Yongling, who wanted to have a lump on her right breast checked, said she couldn't sleep and was suffering from migraines.  She refused to return to the hospital for follow-up

Yuengling – who wanted a lump on her right breast checked – said she couldn’t sleep and suffered from migraines because of the bills. She refused to return to the hospital for follow-up

Insurance plans can be cheaper for patients, because there is only a copayment—a fixed amount paid for covered health care—and a deductible—the amount patients pay before they start having health insurance.

Recent statistics show that 76.4 percent of American women ages 50 to 74 are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.

This is less than the 80 percent held by the federal government.

President Joe Biden has made it one of the hallmarks of his presidency to fight the war on cancer, saying he aims to halve the number of people who die from the disease over the next 25 years.

This will be done in part by developing and deploying screening tests that can detect cancer early using a single blood swab, he said.

It comes after Dani Yungling, of Conway, South Carolina, said she paid $18,000 for a breast biopsy last month.

The 36-year-old mother went to see her doctor earlier this year after realizing her worst fears were on her right breast, since her mother died of the disease earlier this year.

The human resources worker quickly checked the hospital’s cost calculator so she could pay $1,400, and she headed to Grand Strand Medical Center in Myrtle Beach for the biopsy. Yungling hoped her health insurance with Cigna, one of the nation’s largest, would help offset the cost.

But after she got tested in February — and no cancer was found — she received a bill for $17,979. After calling the hospital, she was offered a 36 percent discount — down to $11,500 — but now refuses to return for a follow-up check.

Experts advise patients to always ask their medical providers for a financial price for the treatment process, which is always lower than what is offered to the insurance. A spokeswoman for Conway Medical Center, about 14 miles from the hospital where Yungling was scanned, said they charge $2,100 for the same procedure.

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