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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 25, 1997

Today the President and the First Lady announced new steps to ensure that more women get regular, high quality mammograms. Early detection, followed by prompt treatment, can reduce the risk of death by as much as 30 percent. However, a mammogram can fail to do its job because of poor medical techniques, processing or reading of the films; inadequate record keeping and reporting of results, and lack of effective quality assurance controls. In 1995, about 35 percent of mammography facilities that sought accreditation initially failed the quality requirements. Moreover, far too few women get regular mammograms. Thirty-three percent of women ages 50 to 64, and 45 percent of women over age 65 reported not receiving a mammogram in the last two years. The initiatives the President and the First Lady are announcing today include:

Improving Quality Standards of the Mammography Facilities Nationwide. The new FDA regulations announced today, authorized by the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MSQA), set new high standards for mammography facilities. They include important new clarifications that require facilities to hire capable technologists, to use equipment that produces clear and accurate images, and to ensure that physicians have the skills to interpret the rules. It also requires facilities to display their FDA certification, so women and their families know they have met the quality standards. They also require that patients be fully informed of results of a mammogram so that follow up testing and treatment can begin immediately. These new standards will ensure that women receive high quality, accurate mammograms. The National Breast Cancer Coalition applauded the implementation of the final regulations stating that this Rule will ensure that every woman in America will receive the highest quality mammography.

Initiating a New Mammography Education Campaign at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Today, the NCI is initiating a new national education campaign that provides women, their families and health professionals clear, up-to-date information about steps they should take to detect mammography and breast cancer. The materials being released have been developed to educate women about the recommendations made by NCI this spring that women in their 40s and older should get regular screening mammograms. The NCI materials will be released to community organizations, doctor's offices, and other health care facilities around the country, providing education about the risk factors for breast cancer, the benefits and limitations of mammography, and the importance of regular mammograms for women in their 40s and older. They also highlight breast cancer incidence and mortality rates for women in different racial/ethnic groups.

Launching the First Lady's National Annual Medicare Mammography Campaign. Each year the First Lady has launched a mammography campaign to encourage older women to get mammograms. Despite the fact that mammography can significantly reduce mortality rates, 45 percent of women over age 65 have not had a mammogram in the last two years. To encourage more older women to get regular mammograms, this year, the First Lady's campaign includes:

New Nationwide Public Service Announcements to Encourage More Older Women to Get Mammograms. Today, the First Lady is announcing two new public service announcements to encourage older women to get mammograms. One of the PSAs features Candice Bergen and was aired this week at the close of the Murphy Brown Show. The second PSA includes breast cancer survivor and spokesperson Carol Baldwin and her sons, Alec, William, Daniel and Stephen. In addition to these PSAs, a number of corporations have made important new commitments to educate women about the importance of regular mammography and screening.

HORIZON Grants to Improve Mammography Rates Among Minority Women. This year, HCFA has focused the Medicare mammography campaign to reach minority Medicare beneficiaries who are even less likely to get mammography screenings. HCFA launched Horizon Project grants, a three-year initiative in six major cities which focuses efforts on increasing mammography rates among Hispanic and African-American Medicare beneficiaries. These comprehensive efforts will not only encourage more women in these areas to get regular mammograms, but provide insight on how to overcome barriers that prevent women from getting mammograms. The project's first report, received this week, teaches a great deal about how to identify barriers including lack of awareness about the Medicare mammography benefit, language barriers, and misconceptions that only women of childbearing age are at risk for breast cancer, and strategies to overcome them.

The Initiatives Being Announced Today Build on the President's Strong Record in the Fight Against Breast Cancer.

The Balanced Budget Act Made Medicare Mammograms More Affordable and Accessible. The balanced budget the President signed into law this summer took steps to encourage more women to get regular mammograms by waiving deductibles for all mammograms and covering mammograms on an annual basis. Although Medicare has covered screening mammography since 1991, only 14 percent of eligible beneficiaries without supplemental insurance receive mammograms, indicating that cost can be a significant barrier. The balanced budget also expanded coverage to pay for annual screening mammograms for all Medicare beneficiaries age 40 and over -- making coverage consistent with the new recommendations of national experts. Earlier in the year, President Clinton took action to bring Medicaid and Federal Employees Health Benefits in line with the new recommendations.

The President Has a Long Record in Fighting Breast Cancer. The President has taken a number of important steps to fight breast cancer. Since the President took office, funding for breast cancer research, prevention and treatment has nearly doubled to over $500 million in 1997; the CDC breast and cervical program which provides screening for low-income women has expanded nationwide; new space technology has been utilized to gain knowledge that is valuable in the detection and treatment of breast and ovarian cancer; and funding has increased for an unprecedented partnership at the Department of Defense between the military, scientists, physicians and community members for breast cancer research grants.