Confusion, Outrage Over New Mammogram Recommendations

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If I'm confused, I can only imagine what women are thinking throughout America this morning. As recently as Monday morning, I saw some 40-year-old patients in my office and talked to them about the benefits of mammograms. I based my recommendations on the analysis that the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have said for the last 5-7 years. And I have seen the benefits of early detection and screening in my own experience with a significant amount of cancers being prevented in women in the 40-49 age group.

I have also seen young patients die of breast cancer, so it was very surprising to me that this federally appointed panel came out with the recommendation that women start getting mammograms at age 50 and then every two years after that without even considering the impact that it could have on preventive medicine. So far, the only thing I can conclude from their statements is that they're playing a numbers game and based on their theoretical statistical analyses and data from some European countries such as Sweden, the cost-benefits ratio in their mathematical calculations made it more beneficial at the age of 50 than it would be at the age of 40.

Saving someone from cancer should not be a numbers game, but unfortunately, this seems to be the trend coming to America. Save dollars, and make it cost effective. I don't mind that medical policies change, but what I do mind, is when these decisions are made by bureaucratic panels without considering the impact that it can have on the patients and the physicians treating them. As of today, it appears that the American Cancer Society disagrees with these new recommendations, so I can only imagine what insurance companies are going to be saying in the very near future.

Finally, I really want to express my discontent with the advice being given to younger women not to bother doing self exams. We teach women about the importance of becoming familiar with their bodies. Self examination can yield lesions in a woman's breast that if recognized and worked-up could prevent death and disease. It does not cost anything, and it can only provide vital information that is important to health care professionals. But as I said earlier, it's always a numbers game. I just hope my daughter doesn't become one of those statistics, that at least to some people, do not seem to matter.