HealthBuddy Check 6


How changing cancer screening guidelines has brought about confusion

Posted at 1:59 PM, Jul 06, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. -- Fewer people seem to be getting screened for certain cancers of cancers. The rates either dropped or didn't improve at all. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed many adults have failed to undergo recommended cancer screenings for colorectal, cervical and breast cancers.

"I was very compliant. Every year I went for my mammograms,” Merv Baldecchi, a breast cancer survivor, said.

In July 2012, the mother of three, went in for a routine mammogram and she was eventually called back.

"Within 48 hours, I had a diagnosis of breast cancer. First thing of course you think of is that you're going to die,” Baldecchi said.

Baldecchi got her diagnosis at the age of 48 and would go on to have a mastectomy.

 Merv Baldecchi

Merv Baldecchi and family.

Doctors are concerned these types of cancer screenings are dropping off.

“I do think the guidelines are repeatedly being changed and there's a lot of controversy,” said Dr. Gilda Cardenosa, Chair of Breast Imaging at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

Cardenosa said there is confusion, too.

The American Cancer Society recommends getting a mammogram every year starting at age of 40. But in 2009, the U.S Preventative Task Force set breast cancer guidelines at 50 for every other year.

“We are preparing ourselves to undo all the benefits that we have gained if we were to follow that recommendation. The point of mammography is to try and identify this as early as possible because treatments are better ,” Cardenosa said.

Baldecchi doesn't know what would have happened if she waited until she was 50 to get her mammogram. She said  catching it early saved her life. Dr. Cardenosa said how to pay for a mammogram should never be an issue.


There are programs out there to help with expenses:

Virginia Coordinated Care (VCC)
Virginia Coordinated Care for the Uninsured (VCC) is a joint effort among the VCU Medical Center, the City of Richmond and community primary-care physicians to provide eligible, low-income patients with access to physician and hospital services. VCC's financial assistance programs offer: free care to patients with income below the Federal Poverty Level and limited assets and a sliding scale discount for patients with incomes less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level and limited asset, help with applying for Medicaid / FAMIS / SLH, which are state insurance programs that assist with payments for medical care if an individual meets certain criteria, and discounts for self-pay patients.
Contact: 804-828-0966 Click here for more information, visit

Every Woman's Life by the Virginia Department of Health
Every Woman's Life offers free mammograms at various local clinics and hospital systems to women ages 40-64, who are residents of Virginia, have no insurance or cannot afford to pay their insurance, and their yearly income falls within the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The program also offers breast cancer diagnostic testing to women ages 18-39 who are symptomatic for breast cancer. They too must be a resident of Virginia, be uninsured and have an income that falls within Federal Poverty Guidelines.
Contact: 866-395-4968 Click here for more information.

Susan G. Komen grant
The grant is provided at various local clinics and hospital systems and offers free mammograms for women who qualify (eligibility criteria varies by medical provider).Click here for more information.

The new health care law requires that health insurance companies pay for screening mammograms. Insurance coverage is different for diagnostic mammograms, which usually cost more than screening mammograms. Low-cost mammograms are available in most areas. Call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 for information about facilities in your area.

The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) also provides breast and cervical cancer early detection testing to women without health insurance for free or at very little cost. To learn more about this program, please contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at 1-800-CDC INFO (1-800-232-4636) orclick here to visit their website.