Hyde-Smith Secures Effort to Expand Breast Cancer Screening Coverage for U.S. Servicemembers & Families

Senator Backs Permanent Fix as Defense Department Agrees to Provisional Improved Mammography Options, Senator Cosponsors Legislation to Provide a Permanent Fix

Two months after pushing for a Pentagon policy shift, U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today welcomed the news that the Department of Defense will improve breast cancer screening options for the U.S. military personnel and their families.

In response to a letter signed by Hyde-Smith in September, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery approved provisional coverage for Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, also known as DBT or 3D mammography, as an option for military members and their families covered under TRICARE.  Until this policy change, 3D mammography was only a secondary screening option.  This provisional coverage can be extended for up to five years.

Hyde-Smith welcomed the policy shift, but also called for permanent 3D mammography coverage.

“Servicemembers and their families should have access to the most effective breast cancer screening option as a first priority.  This is a matter of fairness, especially as more women enlist to serve our country,” Hyde-Smith said.

“I am pleased the Department of Defense has approved 3D mammography screenings on a provisional basis.  However, Congress must act to make sure these screenings remain available through TRICARE, just as they are through the VA, Medicare, Medicaid, and other traditional health care plans,” she said.

To promote permanent coverage of 3D mammography in TRICARE, Hyde-Smith is an original cosponsor of the Better and Robust Screening Today Act (S.2944), which would require the Department of Defense to use 3D mammography as the first option for breast cancer screenings.

DBT is more effective than conventional mammography and digital mammography in the breast cancer screening process for all women.  Improved detection and subsequent treatment have led to a 40 percent drop in breast cancer-related deaths between 1989 and 2017.

Introduced by Senator Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), S.2499 is pending in Senate Armed Services Committee.