The Pink Journey Foundation

Screening Mammography: Costs & Benefits


The costs of breast cancer care are spiraling out of control. There is an urgent need to implement programs that will lower costs and reduce breast cancer mortality rates. The most effective strategy to accomplish both goals is to provide universal access to mammographic screening programs. When breast cancers are detected on screening mammograms the probability of a cure approaches 100% (Ref.1-2).

Despite the proven value of mammographic screening, challenges remain. A recent study estimated that 20% of breast cancers were not detected on standard mammographic screening (Ref. 3). Recent studies have demonstrated that AI-assisted mammography can detect a high percentage of breast cancers that are missed on the standard mammographic screening (see internal link: breast density). A recent study reported that AI-assisted mammograms detected 79% of breast cancers that were not detected on the standard screening mammogram (Ref. 4). This improvement in diagnostic accuracy has the potential to markedly improve breast cancer survival rates to reduce the costs of care.


Overview of Costs:

The yearly cost of breast cancer care in the USA is approximately $30 billion which is the highest treatment cost of any other cancer (Ref. 5). In addition to the national cost of breast cancer care, there can be major out-of-pocket expenses for the individual patient (Ref. 6-8). It is estimated that 70% of breast cancer patients are worried about their ability to afford medical care (Ref. 9). A recent study concluded that breast cancer patients were three times more likely to undergo bankruptcy than women who were not diagnosed with breast cancer (Ref. 10). In addition to the financial burden associated with being diagnosed with breast cancer there is an emotional burden to the patient and her family members (Ref. 11-13).

Another major cost issue is the high rate of negative breast biopsies. It is estimated that the yearly cost of unnecessary breast biopsies is in the range of $4 billion (Ref. 14). AI-assisted mammography has the potential to markedly reduce the rate of unnecessary breast biopsies (see internal link: Artificial Intelligence).


Lifetime Cost of Care: Early vs. Delayed Diagnosis


Lifetime cost of care: Early Detection:

When breast cancers are detected on screening mammography in women who have no breast symptoms the long-term survival rates are high and recurrence rates are low. In most cases, mastectomy can be avoided, and the cosmetic results are typically excellent. We estimate that the lifetime cost of care for women who are diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer is in the range of $50-$100 thousand (Ref. 15).


Lifetime cost of care: Delayed detection:

The lifetime cost of care for women who have breast symptoms (such as a breast lump or bloody nipple discharge) at the time of diagnosis is much higher than the cost of care for women whose cancer was detected on the screening mammogram. These women are more likely to need aggressive surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy (Ref. 16). Despite the initial aggressive therapy, these women are at an increased risk of developing a recurrence of their breast cancer which adds to both the emotional and financial costs of care.

Recent advances in breast cancer treatment have improved survival rates in many of these high-risk women, but they come at a high cost. Immunotherapy is now recommended for women who present with aggressive breast cancers. It is estimated that the cost of combined cost of chemotherapy and immunotherapy is in the range of $200 thousand per year (Ref. 17).

A current study is evaluating the potential benefit of CAR-T cells, a type of immunotherapy, to treat women with more advanced breast cancers. If this new therapy proves to be effective, the lifetime cost of care for women who meet the criteria for treatment with CAR-T cells will be in the range of $1 million (Ref. 18).



There is an urgent need to provide women with universal access to AI-assisted screening mammography. In the short term, the cost of implementing such a program would be high. However, in the long run, universal access to AI-assisted mammography has the potential to detect early-stage breast cancers that have a high probability of cure and a low lifetime cost of care. We are convinced that investing in universal access to AI-assisted screening programs will prove to be a wise investment in women’s health.


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    1. Free Breast Cancer Screening & Prevention
    2. Mammography correlates to better survival rates in breast cancer patients: a 20-year experience in a university health institution
    3. Mammograms
    4. Retrospective Review of Missed Cancer Detection and Its Mammography Findings with
      Artificial-Intelligence-Based, Computer-Aided Diagnosis.
    5. Health and Economic Benefits of Breast Cancer Interventions
    6. Special Report: The Cost of Breast Cancer Care Special Report:
    7. She was already battling cancer. Then she had to fight the bill collectors
    8. Survivors’ views: Cancer and medical debt
    9. Survey: Half of Cancer Patients and Survivors Report Incurring Cancer-Related Medical Debt; Over 70% Are Worried About Affording Care
    10. Bankruptcy among insured surgical patients with breast cancer: who is at risk
    11. Psychiatric Symptoms and Psychosocial Problems in Patients with Breast Cancer
    12. Anxiety
    13. The Emotional Impact of Breast Cancer
    14. National Expenditure for False-Positive Mammograms and Breast Cancer Overdiagnoses Estimated At $4 Billion A Year
    15. The Costs of Breast Cancer
    16. Chemotherapy for breast cancer
    17. The Value and Cost of Immunotherapy Cancer Treatment
    18. Real-world CAR-T treatment costs can range from $700,000 to $1 million (dollars).