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AMA faults guidelines for mammograms and prostate cancer test

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Recent recommendations on breast cancer and prostate cancer screening made by a government-appointed panel did not include enough input from experts in treating these cancers, doctors said Tuesday.

The American Medical Association voted today to officially express concern over the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommendations on mammography and prostate specific antigen (PSA) testing.

"We have concerns that adequate input from specialists in these areas is not given or enlisted," when the task force makes its recommendations, said Dr. Robert Hughes, president of the Medical Society of the State of New York.

In 2009, the task force recommended women receive regular mammograms starting at age 50, going against the common practice of screening women beginning at age 40. And recently, the task force recommended against PSA testing for men altogether.

Hughes said that doctors' reactions to these recommendations have been "outrage, disappointment, frustration [and] sadness."

"They put undo emphasis on possible risks, without adequately emphasizing the obvious benefits of early screening," which include early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, Hughes said.

The task force has said the risks of screening, which include unnecessary tests and anxiety caused by false-positive results, do not outweigh their benefits. In addition, the task force said evidence shows men who receive prostate cancer screening do not live longer than men who don't receive screening.

Doctors here said the task force does not have enough input from specialists when making its recommendations.

The new AMA policy says the organizations should encourage task force "to implement procedures that allow for meaningful input on recommendation development from specialists and stakeholders in the topic area under study."

The task force does hold a comment period for their recommendations, but some doctors feel these periods are not enough, and do not adequately engage medical specialists societies, Hughes said.