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SABCS: Free Diagnostic Program Benefits Underserved

Mayo Clinic program shortens time to breast cancer diagnosis from several months to 36 days

TUESDAY, Dec. 18 (HealthDay News) -- A free, comprehensive diagnostic program can help overcome barriers that prevent underserved women from receiving timely care after an abnormal mammogram, according to research presented this week at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Between 2000 and 2006, Frances M. Palmieri, of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., and colleagues offered free diagnostic services to 447 underserved women -- many of whom had no permanent address -- who had been screened for breast cancer at county health departments in Northeast Florida. Mayo clinic staff performed 893 procedures, mostly diagnostic mammograms and ultrasound tests.

The researchers found that the vast majority (90 percent) of the abnormalities detected on initial mammograms were benign. But they also diagnosed 38 cancers, 76 percent of which were invasive carcinoma that required immediate treatment. Under program guidelines, the researchers were able to shorten the time to diagnosis from several months to an average of 36 days, well below the 60-day benchmark established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Timely evaluation and diagnosis for these otherwise underserved women, as demonstrated in our study, is a model to follow," the authors conclude.

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