Mammogram Recommendations Causing Strong Emotions

Mammogram RecommendationsThe new mammogram recommendations have stirred a wide debate across the country.

The recommendations by a federal task force came out on Monday and the American Cancer Society immediately attacked the panel's conclusion in an official statement saying:

The American Cancer Society continues to recommend annual screening using mammography and clinical breast examination for all women beginning at age 40. Our experts make this recommendation having reviewed virtually all the same data reviewed by the USPSTF, but also additional data that the USPSTF did not consider."

The statement continues:

“The USPSTF says that screening 1,339 women in their 50s to save one life makes screening worthwhile in that age group. Yet USPSTF also says screening 1,904 women ages 40 to 49 in order to save one life is not worthwhile. The American Cancer Society feels that in both cases, the lifesaving benefits of screening outweigh any potential harms. Surveys of women show that they are aware of these limitations, and also place high value on detecting breast cancer early."

The American Cancer Society is far from the only one reacting.

"Serious, grave concerns that lives will be lost" is the reaction of Dr. Betsy Angelakis of Lahey Clinc.

Many are worried about the impact the new guidelines will have on their insurance coverage. On Wednesday U.S. Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius distanced the administration from the report as she put out a statement saying "..our policies remain unchanged." She advised women to: "talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you".

Breast cancer survivors from all over the country are being interviewed in local newspapers about their thoughts on the new guidelines. Here is the story of a breast cancer survivor from Spokane, WA who almost had her first mammogram too late.

With all these strong emotions one can wonder who is in favor of the new guidelines?

One organization is National Women's Health Network.

"We’ve known for 16 years that mammography screening doesn’t work well for women before menopause, and not at all for women under 40."

Their point of view is that since mammography isn't good enough for women under 50 we need to find something better.

According to USA Today mammograms reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer by only a fraction of a percent.


10-year risk of death from breast cancer:


Ages 40-49

Ages 50-59

Without screening



With screening



Absolute reduction in risk



The last word has not yet been said and we will continue to follow the discussions. Meanwhile we would love to know where you stand.

Written by Carolin Koppenaal of Ann Arbor, MI. – November 2009

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