November 19 2009
Nicole Kurokawa Neily
A healthcare policy analyst says new mammography guidelines proposed by a government task force would be a setback for early breast cancer detection.
A government panel of doctors and scientists recommended Monday that women in their forties should not have annual mammograms and older women should reduce their use of the screening device. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that early and frequent breast cancer screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies without substantially improving women's odds of survival.
Nicole Kurokawa, a senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum, says the recommendation by the government task force brings the U.S. in line with British policy.
"Unfortunately what Britain has, as a result of their policy, is a 69-percent, five-year survival rate for breast cancer; whereas the U.S. right now has a much better survival rate -- our survival rate's about 84 percent," she points out. "And that's really not a system that we want here, particularly with a disease like breast cancer."
The analyst explains that with breast cancer, early detection is key to survival rates. "And in pushing detection back, what we're doing is...sending a message that it's just not important," she laments.
Kurokawa says the new mammogram advice from the USPSTF reaffirms that when the government is in control of healthcare, Americans are really going to suffer.
In fact, concern has been expressed in media interviews that the new guidelines represent a form of healthcare rationing that puts financial considerations above lives. On Wednesday, Heath and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to distance her agency from the Task Force's recommendations, stating she would be "very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action."
The Task Force advises HHS, and its members are appointed by the HHS. None of the current 16 members are oncologists.