TRICARE beneficiaries now are eligible to receive 3-D mammograms. The procedure, known formally as digital breast tomosynthesis, offers a more thorough means of detecting the disease than conventional mammograms. Women age 40 or older would be the prime candidates for the procedure, as would those under 30 with family histories of breast cancer.
Digital breast tomosynthesis provides imagery comparable to that of a CT (computed tomography) scan, and is particularly useful for patients with dense breast tissue. As the CT x-ray “sweeps” over the tissue, it produces a cross section of tissue “slices.” More of the breast is examined closely, allowing for quicker diagnosis of trouble and thus enhancing the chance of successful treatment.
Some 80,000 TRICARE beneficiaries were diagnosed with either malignancies or pre-cancerous carcinomas between 2016 and 2018. The statistic raised concerns in the military health community, which led to the decision to offer 3-D mammograms. The decision comes even though the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – the body that determines if such procedures should be universally required – has yet to do so. Retired Navy Vice Adm. Raquel C. Bono, the former chief of the Defense Health Agency, took particular interest in approving 3-D mammography coverage during her tenure. Even though coverage would expire within five years under the new arrangement, health officials are confident that the task force would approve full coverage by then.
Beneficiaries should check with their TRICARE provider or regional customer service center to learn where 3-D mammograms will be available.