The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has come out with new recommendations for breast cancer screening that are quite troubling and are actually in disagreement with both the recommendations of the American Cancer Society, and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists as well. The screening guidelines are issued under the Department of Health and Human Services.
The revised recommendations concern mammograms and breast self-exams. Under the new guidelines, the task force now says:
- Most women in their 40’s should not routinely get mammograms.
- Women 50 to 74 should get mammograms every other year until they turn 75, after which the risks and benefits are unknown.
- The value of breast exams by doctors is unknown.
- Breast self-exams are of no value.
Citing their reasoning behind the recommendations is the fear of “too many false alarms and unneeded biopsies without substantially improving a woman’s odds of survival.” Do we translate this into more of a “cost” issue?
It is absolutely astounding to me why they have come out with these recommendations. Until now, it’s been recommended that women start getting mammograms annually at age 40, and that breast self-exams should be done every month. To now reverse these recommendations in my view is just reckless.
When you get right down to it, the new guidelines say nothing more than “cross your fingers and hope for the best.” To say not only don’t get a mammogram, but don’t have your doctor do a breast exam, nor do self-exams is essentially to say do nothing.
This is absolutely irresponsible, especially at a time when we are having such a serious debate over health care legislation, where insurance company lobbyists are pushing hard against reform, isn’t this just going to give more excuses to limit coverage for preventive breast cancer screening? As if they needed another excuse.
Furthermore, who exactly is on the panel behind these recommendations?
To now say essentially “do nothing” until age 50 is irresponsible, ignorant and a downright dangerous. Take it from someone who was diagnosed at age 44, someone whose doctor found a lump, and was sent for a mammogram and an ultrasound “just to make sure” even though they assumed it was a “false alarm.” It wasn’t a false alarm. Had these new recommendations been in effect at that time, I might not be here today.
I think a majority of women out there, if asked, would much rather have a false alarm than just hope that they wouldn’t be diagnosed until after age 50, or until it’s too late. Hope is not a plan.
To follow these guidelines in my opinion, is just dangerous. Period.