The video, which was funded by Aetna and can be viewed on the American Cancer Society website (www.cancer.org/aetnamammo), features testimonials from a diverse range of women — including breast cancer survivors — describing their feelings about breast cancer.
"Hopefully, hearing real women share their personal viewpoints and experiences with breast cancer will have an impact on women who might not realize how prevalent this problem is," said Joanne Armstrong, M.D., a senior medical director at Aetna who is also featured in the video. "Early detection of breast cancer is important for all women, but is particularly critical for African American and Latina women, who are less likely to receive mammography screenings, and more likely to die from breast cancer because the condition is not identified early enough."
Outreach Program Helps Break Down Barriers
Before developing the video, Aetna conducted focus groups among members age 40 to 69 to identify their primary reasons for not getting breast cancer screenings. These groups included women who had never had a mammogram or had not had one in the last five years. While the women said they understood the importance of yearly mammograms, they mentioned several barriers to screening consistently, including:
According to Dr. Armstrong, the video addresses all of these points with a combination of real-life experiences and statistics on breast cancer.
"The video includes important facts that all women should know. For example, 70 percent to 80 percent of breast cancer patients have no family history of breast cancer," Dr. Armstrong said. "It also features women talking about their personal battles with the disease, including a breast cancer survivor discussing how thankful she was to have learned about her diagnosis early because she underwent annual mammograms."
"It is estimated that more than 180,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and about 40,000 women will die from the disease this year," said Robert Smith, Ph.D., director of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society. "We could reduce death and suffering from breast cancer if more women were aware of the importance of regularly scheduled mammograms in detecting the disease. It is our hope that this emotional and factual video will help women understand the critical need for getting screened and will help them overcome any fears they may have."
This collaboration with the American Cancer Society builds on other Aetna initiatives to educate women about the importance of mammography screening, especially in minority populations. In a separate initiative, Aetna uses voluntary self-reported data on race and ethnicity combined with claims data to identify Latina and African American women who have not had their annual screening mammogram. Aetna reaches out to these members either with targeted telephone calls by a bilingual nurse case manager or educational mailings in English and Spanish. Aetna’s outreach stresses the importance of mammography screening, discusses the risk of breast cancer to Latina and African American women, and offers suggestions on how to find a mammography center. Last year, Aetna was awarded the prestigious "Recognizing Innovation in Multicultural Health Care Award" by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for this program.
In addition to posting this video to the American Cancer Society and Aetna websites, Aetna will mail a targeted message to approximately 320,000 female members who have not had a mammogram in the past year. This reminder, which will be distributed in April and asks women to "Take time for yourself" around the Mother’s Day holiday; points members to the new video; provides a toll-free number (1-800-227-2345) where members can request a free breast cancer information packet from the Society; and encourages women to schedule a mammogram during the month of May.
In recognition of the valuable role that doctors can play in encouraging their patients to get screened on a regular basis, Aetna also has developed a mammogram reminder display with tear-off notes that physicians can use in their office. The materials, which will be sent to almost 21,000 Ob/Gyn offices around the country, will help expand the promotion of this important message beyond Aetna members.
"This is information every woman should be aware of," Dr. Armstrong said. "We hope that if women don’t hear this message on their own, their doctors will talk with them about the role of mammograms in the early detection of breast cancer."
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 37.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. www.aetna.com