Breast cancer survivor furious after Medicare denied mammogram c - KCTV5

Breast cancer survivor furious after Medicare denied mammogram coverage because he is male

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Kirby Anders is upset about his bill because the government paid for his wife’s, even though Anders is the one who survived breast cancer. (KCTV5) Kirby Anders is upset about his bill because the government paid for his wife’s, even though Anders is the one who survived breast cancer. (KCTV5)
DOUGLAS COUNTY, KS (KCTV) -

A Douglas County breast cancer survivor is furious about mammogram coverage.

Medicare would not pay for the 76-year-old's mammogram even though he had surgery 21 years ago. That’s because the patient is male.

Kirby Anders is upset about his bill because the government paid for his wife’s, even though Anders is the one who survived breast cancer.

Anders lives on a farm, and his days are packed with chores and taking care of animals. He’s a common-sense person questioning health care rules when it comes to mammograms.

"When the wife went to have her mammogram, I told the nurse that I had breast cancer. And she said, 'When is the last time you been screened?'" he said.

Anders hadn’t had a mammogram since 2003. He was diagnosed back in 1996. It started with a small lump he almost ignored.

"I never thought much about it ... just a bump there," he said.

But he checked, and lab results showed cancer. He had a mastectomy on his left side. Fast-forward two decades and his wife is getting her annual recommended mammogram when a nurse questioned why Anders wasn’t getting one too.

"'Oh my! You need one, and Medicare will pay for it,'" Anders recalls the nurse saying to him. "The results of it ... They did not pay for it. They denied it."

Look closely at the medicare rules and annual mammograms are covered for women but not men. Anders got a bill for more than $300.

"Medicare is just messed up," he said.

On average, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s most less common in men with one in 1,000.

But every year, almost 3,000 America men like Anders are diagnosed with breast cancer. They have surgery, and like any cancer survivor, they worry if cancer will come back.

But Anders is learning first hand he’s in such a small group that there aren’t clear medical recommendations, and that affects private insurance and Medicare.

"I don't think there are enough statistics what benefits are there in men with screening mammography," diagnostic radiologist Dr. Richard Kuckelman said. "They say you should consider it, but they don't come out and say it, because they don't have the statistics to support it."

Genetic testing could be the game changer. Scientists have long made the connection that the BRCA gene raises a woman’s chance of having breast cancer from 12-percent to about 65-percent.

And for men, if they inherited the BRCA gene, their odds increase from .1-percent to 12-percent.

Anders doesn’t know if he’s BRCA positive, but he suspects his grandmother on his father’s side had breast cancer.

"I think Mr. Anders is absolutely justified in wanting to have a screening mammography," Kuckelman said.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital covered the cost of Anders' mammogram so he didn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. While he is grateful, he’s still irritated with Medicare guidelines concerning men and breast cancer.

"I’d like for all male folks to realize they can get breast cancer like women can," he said.

Kuckelman says it’s easier for a doctor to perform a physical exam and detect breast cancer in men. That’s because they have more muscle and less fatty tissue so the tumors are easier to feel and spot.

However, most men and doctors don’t check, and when cancer is discovered, it’s generally at a later stage and more aggressive.

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