Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, preventive screening for ovarian cancer is not listed among the services that are required to be covered at no copay or coinsurance, despite the fact that 1 in 72 women will get ovarian cancer, compared to similar 1 in 69 for women age 40-49, who will get breast cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Unfortunately, the reason for the omission is not just that breast cancer is deadlier, or that it gets more attention, more marketing or more fundraising dollars.

Rather, research suggests that ovarian cancer screening — unlike mammography — is ineffective in saving women from the disease.

According to a new study from the National Institutes of Health, women screened every year for ovarian cancer were just as likely to die from the disease as those who didn't have regular screening, Reuters reports. Even worse, more women who did have annual screenings had surgery to have their ovaries removed and experienced complications related to false-positive test results, the study found.

The current screening technique of a combination of blood tests and ultrasounds “shouldn't be used for screening in the average-risk woman," Christine Berg, one of the study's authors, told Reuters. “I don't think it's working at all.”

Although Berg noted some new research to make ovarian cancer screening more effective, there is nothing concrete for employers and health plans to follow regarding preventive care strategies. In fact, Berg said,

Thus, employers would do well to follow the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a federally supported expert panel that came under fire in 2009 for its recommendations on mammography, in its recommendation against routine screening for ovarian cancer.

How does your company create its preventive care guidelines? Do you simply follow USPTF, the recommendations of your health plan, a combination of both or something different? Share your thoughts in the comments.


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