"Irresponsible" to offer women incentives of chocolate fondue, massages & beauty tips in exchange for mammograms

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The Chicago Tribune reports on mammogram marketing tactics being used across the US – some of it apparently to “woo women back to the imaging room” after confusion over conflicting advice about breast cancer screening.

Yes, the tactics include “mammogram parties” offering chocolate fondue, massages and beauty consultations, wine, cheese, roses, weekend spa-getaway packages.

But there’s another side to this, the Tribune reports:

Simply inviting women to “mammogram parties,” could send the wrong message, said Lynne Hildreth, department administrator of women’s oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

“Mammograms are a medical test, and to treat it like a haircut overlooks that there are very real risks,” said Hildreth. “It’s not the same risk as getting hit by a car, but there’s a real risk of getting a false positive, which means a biopsy work-up, time off work, sleepless nights waiting for test results and a nagging in the back of the mind that never goes away. If we put a woman through that with no medical basis, it’s irresponsible.”

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Comments (10)

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October 6, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Patient input
Well, I’m going to sound contradictory, but here goes:
I do not agree with the alcohol-pink-infusion to promote breast cancer awareness, due to the alcohol (possible)link to the cancer…plus there’s the advertising using alcohol topic….
BUT, this is not a new idea: Botox parties have been happening for quite some time. Using Botox with its risks is already questionable, yet women were/are going to parties where there is food, wine and concierge doctors giving injections.
The mammogram, is available using digital technology reducing the X ray radiation as a side effect…so in other words, I believe this is a non invasive procedure, that if offered in the context of a fun social gathering, women may go and at minimum get a baseline one done.
I’ve been reading all of this with interest. I had my first mammogram at age 46 or 47, and have had 2 total. Now at age 50, I feel comfortable that I have a baseline in case other problems show up, but frankly am not planning on having another one this year.
If offered to me for free in a setting where I might receive a spa gift certicate, I might change my mind.I generally do not go for hype or things like this though.
So, I guess this is the “choose your poison” advertising campaign!
*I also believe if a woman thinks there is a problem, has pain or other changes in breast condition that might warrant a mammogram, then get to the doctor for an official appointment, skip the party!
I also should add, that the conflicting reports DO create skepticism, and with insurance mammograms are not always 100% covered in payment. Women may be avoiding the mammograms due to rumor of pain of the process from the equipment flattening the breast, they may not know they can get one for free from certain places, and then due to the false/positive outcome of results, it’s a test I feel may not be accurate for diagnosis of a problem. My own results said there was a 10% chance the results were wrong, which left me with more anxiety than not having a mammogram done.

Jess Ovenden

October 6, 2010 at 6:03 pm

As a breast cancer patient in remission living in Australia I find this information shocking. The marketing of mammogram screening could never happen here because we have a national healthcare system which means these tests are free to all women over 50, or who have a suspicious lump at any age, and all who have had treatment as part of our follow up care. My cancer treatment included: mammogram and ultrasound, initial biopsy, mastectomy including sentinel node biopsy, then axcillary lymph node clearance, full chemotherapy including a year of Herceptin (very expensive drug) a course of radiotherapy and ongoing treatment with Arimidex for several years and counseling, physiotherapy and other support services including income support. All this cost me was a total of about $100 ( yes 100!) contribution for the drugs. I’d be dead if I lived in the US I think. Your system is sick and inhumane. Healthcare should be a right, not a commercial product to be marketed. False positives from mammograms are common and the biopsy is painful and traumatic. I know this because it happened to me two weeks ago at my free annual check. If I had to be ‘sold’ the service it would be doubly horrible. I wonder what breast cancer survival rates are like in the US? Not too good I suspect. Offering woman incentives to buy a service that is so vital, with about one in eight women developing breast cancer, is shameful and hard to comprehend. It’s a symptom of a society whose lack of care for it’s citizens is repugnant to those of us lucky enough to live elsewhere. I feel so sorry for Americans.


October 6, 2010 at 8:19 pm

The article does not state if the women paid anything for the mammograms at the hospital event where 350 women attended and 60 women received mammograms.
Questions for clarification
1. Do the parties, events cost the consumer any money or co pay?
2. Does the hospital or event host make money off of the patient in any way?
It seems like a good idea to increase awareness, and 60/350 receiving the mammogram, it would be interesting to know how many if any at all received any bad news as a result (cancer/lumps,etc).
I have had 2 different insurance companies for both mammograms and one, the most expensive and popular charged the most and left me with a co-pay instead of 100% coverage.
3. Should mammograms and prostate screenings be free in America?
4. What is the actual cost of a mammogram and does the cost fluctuate depending on what medical/hospital does it?
5. Do hospitals, etc. make large amounts of money from mammograms?
6. If I am uninsured can I return to the same place with my file for a annual mammogram or will I be deferred somewhere else?


October 7, 2010 at 1:28 am

your opening line in paragraph one really catch me! LOLS..
but it is indeed true. nothing can be exchanged with healthy life, including chocolate or wine. as a woman i know that


October 16, 2010 at 12:40 pm

@Jess Ovenden…
Very passionate response, and well deserved… sadly, politics in the US will ensure that the uninformed keep fighting Universal Healthcare which, truth be told, is only aimed at helping them.
I lived down under in the late ’80s and I appreciate the Healthcare the Ozzie government provides, because there were a lot of moments when, had I not been covered through the family I was living with, things would not have turned out the way they did.