New Breast Cancer Screening Guideline Controversy

November 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Breast cancer survivor Jamie Ledezma of Fresno believes the new screening guidelines proposed by the United States Preventive Services Task Force are a big mistake."Under the new guidelines women may not receive appropriate mammogram services to save their lives." Ledezma said.

Current guidelines recommend women get mammograms every year after age 40. The new recommendations say wait until age 50, and then get a mammogram every two years. Task Force Vice Chair, Dr. Diana Petitti said the guidelines are based on careful research.

"The guidelines are being changed because we have new studies. New ways of looking at those studies and because we have a better way of using the information we have," said Dr. Petitti.

The task force says statistics show the risks of radiation from mammograms, and the anxiety and expense of biopsies that lead to false positive readings outweigh the benefits of early detection in women under 50.

Dr. Ken Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society disagrees. "We're going to lose women from breast cancer. They will die as a result of what the task force is saying and we're not sure that's the right way to approach this issue." He said.

For Ledezma who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27 pushing the screening age even higher makes no sense, and she believes it will give women of all ages a false sense of security, and another reason to put off a potentially lifesaving test.

"I would say as a breast cancer survivor I would say that no woman wants to forgo a mammogram because if it saves your life it's worth going to get your mammogram," said Ledezma.

But the task force report says the benefits of mammograms are modest. They reduce the breast cancer rate death rate by about 15 percent. A rate they say is not worth the added risks and costs.

The new guidelines are likely to be adopted by insurance companies. Reducing the number of mammograms nationwide could save billions of dollars.

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