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TRICARE to Cover 3D Breast Cancer Screenings in 2020

TRICARE covers 3D mammogram

Breast Cancer Screenings Will Use New Technology

There is good news with regards to TRICARE and breast cancer screenings as the Department of Defense Department has added new technology for breast cancer screenings to its coverage. This was decided after female veterans in Congress pushed the Pentagon to make it available to active-duty service members, retirees, and their families.

Although TRICARE does cover regular 2-D breast screenings, adding this new technology will be a good thing for woman’s health. Digital breast tomosynthesis, which is a 3D mammogram, is said to better detect breast cancer.

When Will This Be Available?

This will go into effect on January 1st, 2020, although it has only been approved as a provisional coverage at this time. It should be able to be extended up to five years and the hope is that during that time the United States Preventative Services Task Force will recommend DBT for breast cancer screenings. The reason that this will only be provisional at this time is that it could not be added as a permanent service because the US Preventative Services Task Force doesn’t currently recommend the technology for breast cancer screenings. Hopefully, this will change.

This decision came after Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-PA and Sen. Martha McSally, R-AZ, urged Thomas McCaffery, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, to expand TRICARE coverage to include DBT screenings.

McSally said in a statement, “I’m glad to see the Department of Defense step up and provide needed coverage for DBT screenings to our active-duty service members and others. This common sense change will benefit the many women who utilize Tricare.”

They introduced the legislation in the House and Senate in November. This legislation would require TRICARE to offer this new technology as a primary and preventive health care service. TRICARE does already offer DBT in some instances for diagnosing patients, however not for routine screenings.

DBT builds a three-dimensional image of a breast to better detect and diagnose breast cancer. This is especially true for women with dense breast tissue. It is already available for those who use Medicare, or the Department of Veterans Affairs health care. Right now, TRICARE only covers the two-dimensional images.

The most common type of cancer in women is breast cancer and DBT has been found to help radiologists detect breast cancer and reduce the need for biopsies. According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will develop cancer in their lifetime so why shouldn’t TRICARE cover a better way to screen for it?

After this goes into effect on January 1st, 2020, the Defense Health Agency will be working to fully implement DBT for breast cancer screenings by early 2020. McSally’s office plans to work with the department to ensure it becomes a permanent service with TRICARE.


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Julie Provost is a freelance writer, and blogger. She lives in Tennessee with her National Guard husband and three boys.