Doctors are once again at odds with the government, but this time it has less to do with Obamacare, and everything to do with saving lives, possibly yours.
Mammograms Save Lives
We all know that Mammograms save lives. National Cancer Institute data show the US breast cancer death rate, previously unchanged for 50 years, has dropped 37 percent since mammograms became widespread in 1990. The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPST); however, doesn’t seem to get it.
Early Detection is Key
While a mammogram doesn’t treat breast cancer, it is the key to the early detection of breast cancer. Another key is routine monthly self-examinations. The combination is an effective way to detect breast cancer in its early stage. The earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the chance that treatment will lead to a cure.
Cure rates are greater than 90% for breast cancers detected early. Earlier detection means smaller tumors. Smaller breast cancers spread less often and are removed more easily. On the other hand, if breast cancer is discovery after it has left the breast, treatments rapidly become more complex and are dramatically less effective.
Doctors Fight Back For Their Patients
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recently issued new guidelines, joining a long list of physician lead professional societies strengthening the stand that early mammography saves lives. The new ACOG recommendations call for mammograms more frequently than the previous ACOG guidelines. The previous guidelines recommended mammography every one to two years beginning at age 40, and then annual mammograms after age 50. The new guidelines recommend:
- Mammography yearly beginning at age 40
- Monthly self-exams for women at high risk for breast cancer
The ACOG recommendations are in alignment with the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging recommendations, and both conflict with the government’s USPST recommendations of delaying mammography until age 50.
US Preventive Services Task Force (USPST) Recommendations Deemed Unacceptable
When the USPST recommended against routine mammography for women younger than 50-years-old, it was in direct opposition to the current standard of care. The Major Medical Organizations in the US where at first shocked and then adamantly vocal in their opposition. The recommendation would mean less money spent on mammograms upfront; however, the “savings” would be lost later in trying to treat larger tumors that are more likely to have spread. The ultimate cost; however, would be measured in lives not saved.
Thank you ACOG
Thank you to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for joining the long list of professional medical organizations, including the American Society or Plastic Surgeons, who disagree with the government’s suggestion to wait until age 50.
When the American College of Radiology and Society of Breast Imaging made it’s recommendation that mammography should start at age 40, they used the USPST’s own data against them. After careful review, the USPST’s data did not support the recommendation of delaying mammography until age 50. I applaud the efforts made by organized medicine to bring this information to light. How this remains outside the main stream media is puzzling. With major health care “reforms” underway, this is an excellent topic for an investigative report, and early mammography will certainly save more lives than knowing where Casey Anthony is hiding.
You Are Worth It
Mammography, while not pleasant, is an effective screening tool. With 80% of breast cancer occurring in women without a family history, it is important for every woman to have access to the exam. If the government recommends delaying mammography a decade, the next step will be to stop paying for it. If government programs stop paying for the service, all insurance companies will follow.
Mammography allows us to detect and control the spread of breast cancer. If we allow a guideline delaying mammography to become law, it will be much more difficult for your doctor to order this simple, lifesaving test. If the USPST gets its way, unless you are willing (and able) to pay for your own yearly mammograms, you won’t be getting them. Your government may not think it is worth the documented reduction in breast cancer deaths, but your doctors do.
Please support your doctors in their efforts. We strive to practice effective medicine and protect our patients. The Hippocratic Oath mandates that we doctors do no harm. The USPST mandate delaying mammography until after age 50 would do harm, and allowing the recommendation to go forward unchallenged, would be just as harmful.