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The Verdict Is In - Mammograms Save Lives

BLOOMFIELD, Conn., Oct. 7 -- Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of controversy about the effectiveness of mammograms in detecting breast cancer. However, a jury of leading health organizations(1) has deliberated and come back with a verdict. And the verdict is that mammograms are the best screening tool we have to detect breast cancer in its earliest stages, when it is the most treatable. Early detection is a lifesaver!

CIGNA HealthCare is making "house calls" to its members during the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, to emphasize the importance of mammograms. Women of all ages can be at risk for breast cancer. However, the risk in developing the disease increases with age. Therefore, CIGNA HealthCare will be calling its members who are over 40 years of age and overdue for a mammogram to remind them to get this all-important screening.

"There has been a lot of confusion over the past couple of years about whether or not mammograms are a useful way to detect breast cancer. We've actually seen breast cancer screening rates go down across the country over the past year(2)," said Dr. William Alexander, national quality medical director and chair of the CIGNA HealthCare National Quality Council.

"We want to reverse this trend among our members because we know that mammograms can mean earlier detection of breast cancer. Early detection not only saves lives, but finding breast cancer in its earliest stages may also allow women to have more control over their treatment options," he added.

CIGNA HealthCare wants to remind every woman over age 40 or with risk factors to speak to her physician about the need for a mammogram. Statistics show that when breast cancer is diagnosed early and treated promptly, suffering and ultimately loss of life can be significantly reduced. When breast cancer is confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is more than 95 percent. In fact, mammography screening has been shown to reduce death rates by 25-55% percent among women age 50 and older.

Most health plans, including CIGNA HealthCare, cover mammograms. And women do not need a referral from their primary care physician to get a mammogram at a participating facility. Yet, many women still do not schedule this all-important screening. Therefore, "We want to encourage women and the men who love them to call a friend or family member and remind that woman to schedule a mammogram today," said Dr. Alexander.

In addition to making "house calls," CIGNA HealthCare will donate $1 to the National Breast Cancer Foundation for each of the first 25,000 members who register for myCIGNA.com, a personalized health and wellness member Web page for members. The site provides secure access to a member's personalized health benefits information along with online tools to help make informed health care decisions for themselves and their families.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation provides free mammograms for minority, homeless, and uninsured women, and reaches millions with breast cancer education programs. "We know from national research that African American women are more likely to die from breast cancer even though the racial disparity in mammography rates has virtually disappeared. This is partially because they often develop breast cancer at an earlier age and a larger percentage of their breast cancers are diagnosed at a later, less treatable stage. Therefore, we are very pleased to be able to work with CIGNA HealthCare to reach out to women who might not otherwise have access to mammograms," said Janelle Hail, founder and president of the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Begun as a pilot project in New Hampshire, CIGNA HealthCare expanded its Breast Cancer Awareness Pink Ribbon outreach program nationally in 2001 after hearing from one cancer survivor who said her reminder call saved her life. Last year, volunteers placed phone calls to more than 85,000 women members encouraging them to set up an appointment to have a mammogram.

In addition to the donation to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, CIGNA HealthCare health plans and their employees around the country will be raising and donating up to $170,000 to various breast cancer prevention and early detection programs in their local communities.

Women visiting CIGNA's Web site at http://www.cigna.com/ will find resource materials about cancer in women and a downloadable guide to breast self- examination and information how to combat breast and ovarian cancer. "Nothing is more powerful than personally reaching out to women, encouraging them to get a mammogram or at least get informed about the risks associated with breast cancer," said Dr. Alexander. "Our hope is to give women useful tools and information to help them take charge of their health."

CIGNA HealthCare has a strong commitment to women's health and works to enhance the wellness of women through several initiatives, including:

  • Awareness campaigns in cooperation with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance;
  • Education programs through member publications and exclusive national health care sponsorship of the March of Dimes WalkAmerica;
  • National sponsor of the March of Dimes Prematurity Campaign, aimed at decreasing the rate of premature birth through aggressive public education and increased research;
  • Healthy Babies® program to help women have healthy deliveries; and,
  • Breast health awareness campaigns.

For more information about breast cancer, visit CIGNA HealthCare at http://www.cigna.com/ or the National Breast Cancer Foundation at http://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/.

CIGNA HealthCare, headquartered in Bloomfield, Connecticut, provides medical benefits through managed care and indemnity health care plans to approximately 12.0 million people, dental coverage to approximately 12.5 million, behavioral health coverage to approximately 14.3 million, and pharmacy benefits to approximately 9.4 million. "CIGNA HealthCare" refers to various operating subsidiaries of CIGNA Corporation . Products and services are provided by these operating subsidiaries and not by CIGNA Corporation.

  1. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), The National Institutes on Health (NIH), The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), The American Cancer Society and the World Health Organization among others.
  2. National Committee for Quality Assurance Quality Compass Report released in September 2003.

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