Saturday, June 30, 2007

The price of peace of mind

Priceless, I suppose. But nearly $2,000 is what I just spent to attain it.

I was delighted to be approved by my insurance company for a breast MRI as part of my high risk screening. I've mentioned before that dense breast tissue increases the risk of breast cancer nearly six-fold. First of all, dense breasts are extremely difficult to image by mammography which makes cancer more likely to be missed. Plus, dense breasts are caused by increased amounts of glandular and supporting tissue, all of which is more likely to be stimulated into some sort of unwanted, carcinogenic DNA mutation.

Recent information confirms that MRI imaging is much more likely to catch a cancer in a set of dense breasts. Since I happen to own a pair, and I also have a family history of ovarian cancer, I definitely fall into the high risk category.

I was relieved to get the all clear notice from Rose Medical Center's radiology department. I was not so pleased to get the bill from Anthem--$3,682 for the undertaking, over half of it mine to pay. As my medical partner pointed out, Anthem's stance was "Sure get a breast MRI. Get two. We don't pay much of anything on those."

Another less expensive screening test which is useful for dense breasts or really any kind of breast is thermography. Whereas mammograms and ultrasounds rely on differences in density of breast tissue (thus not so good a test for the 'all dense all the time' set), thermograms use infrared technology to find temperature differences in breast tissue.

On average, breasts hang off your chest in a cooler sort of way, showing up in shades of greens to blues on thermograms. Cancers recruit blood vessels early on to fuel their nefarious growth and show up orange to red. Breasts remain thermographically stable over time, so yearly thermograms are one more way to screen for cancer.

One more reasonably-priced way that is. I have gotten thermograms at Pristine Health in the Denver Tech Center for a mere $195. I picked up a price list from Colorado Heart & Body Imaging in Cherry Creek on Friday--thermography (called a Sentinel BreastScan by them) is merely $145!

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