According to research published by Yale University, 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), has one more thing physicians and women should like about it:

It’s cost-effective.

Researchers say not only does it find more cancers than digital mammography alone, 3D mammography reduces the number of exams categorized as what’s known as “BI-RADS 3” or “probably benign,” which tend to require short-term follow-up over at least two years. Because of dramatic decreases in these types of cases, that in turn reduces the cost of breast cancer diagnosis and follow-up.

A country’s “cost-effectiveness threshold” represents its willingness to pay for healthcare interventions. For years, this has been measured in the U.S. in part by the arbitrarily-set figure of $50,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) with one QALY representing a year of perfect health. Medical interventions at a dollar value higher than this level are considered less efficient.

However, in the past 10 years, researches have argued that a $100,000 per QUALY ratio is more accurate and this is the figure that researchers used to analyze 3D mammography’s effectiveness, in conjunction with the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) measure. ICER is defined as the difference in cost between two possible interventions, divided by the difference in their effect.

Sounds like lots of statistical mumbo jumbo. For the lay person, it’s exactly that. However, data can often tell a story. In the area of 3D mammography, according to this research, it does.

The researchers data suggested the following cost-effectiveness for 3D mammography:

  • Ages 40-49: $56,550 per quality-adjusted life year
  • Ages 50-59: $39,522 per quality-adjusted life year
  • Ages 60-69: $87,500 per quality-adjusted life year
  • Ages 70-79: $17,178 per quality-adjusted life year

Simply put, 3D mammography reduces the number of exams needed, hence the savings. With all the mumbo jumbo, it’s a financial conclusion most can understand. Less exams = less spending.

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