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First lady Frances Wolf on Monday kicked off Breast Cancer Awareness month by directing insurance companies to cover 3-D mammograms for Pennsylvania residents at no extra cost.

Insurers must treat 3-D mammograms as they would traditional two-dimensional mammograms when determining healthcare coverage, according to a press release from Gov. Tom Wolf's administration.

Those seeking mammograms previously told the state Insurance Department that, when given the choice of a 2-D or 3-D mammogram, the latter is often presented with an additional charge, typically between $50 and $60.

"Questions have arisen as to whether 3D mammograms should be covered by insurance in the same manner that traditional mammograms are," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a press release. "Today, I am announcing that my administration's answer to this question is an absolute yes."

With the adoption of Wolf's new policy, the Insurance Department will consider all mammograms to be covered under Pennsylvania law, which means they must be provided at no cost to the consumer, said Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller.

About 12,000 people across the state are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 2,200 succumb to the disease, according to the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition.

Most health care providers recommend women age 40 and older receive annual mammograms. Early detection, made possible through procedures like mammograms, is a patient's best hope in beating breast cancer.

"Three-dimensional mammograms are another way to provide vital preventive healthcare to women," the first lady said in a press release. "Women must be able to receive services like these at no cost. Nearly all breast cancers can be successfully treated if found early and this is another tool to make early detection possible."

Three-dimensional mammography utilizes x-ray machines which take pictures of thin slices of the breast from different angles; computer software is then used to reconstruct the image.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.

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