New Mammogram Guidelines Spark Debate

By: Josh Gauntt Email
By: Josh Gauntt Email

Joni Erlewein is 44 years old. She routinely gets mammograms, believing early detection is key to avoiding breast cancer.

But a new the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is made up of 16 health care experts, now says women under the age of 50 should not get routine mammograms.

"I think it's a little bit scary because women should really have the right to have a mammogram," Erlewein said.

The group is recommending women ages 40 to 49 should talk to their doctors to find out the benefits and risks of the exam. They also recommend women between the ages of 50 through 75 should get mammograms not annually but every two years. Here's why.

"That is, the likelihood of having a false positive test with all the attendant anxiety, the additional imaging tests, perhaps even leading to biopsy that may have been unnecessary," Dr. Diana Petitti, of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force said.

Local health experts strongly disagree. Kim Lydick has been a registered nurse for years. She's also a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, which is sticking by what it's been preaching for years.

"And they still say at 40 years old, every woman should still get an annual mammogram, screening mammogram and continue throughout life," Lydick said.

Critics say these new recommendations are the beginning of President Obama's new health care plan, which could force some insurance companies to drop coverage of mammograms.

"They are trying to do the new health care system. Government run, cut costs," Lydick said.

"They make recommendations. They don't make policy. What I wanted to clarify is that we don't intend to change any coverage," Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary said.

The task force says the guidelines are only recommendations and that you should still talk to your doctor.

The task force also says there's no need to teach women to do self-breast exams. That may shock you, but for the past five years, the government and the American Cancer Society said there's not enough evidence to recommend that women do the monthly exams.


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