I had very mixed emotions after hearing about the recommendations of the United States Preventative Services Task Force against mammograms for women ages 40-49 and women over 50 should only have mammograms every two years. My first reaction was fear that insurance companies will now use this as an excuse to change their policies for coverage of mammograms prior to age 50. I have heard way too many stories of women prior to age 50 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer to feel good about this.
I was relieved to hear that the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology were not supportive of the new guidelines and hopeful that insurance companies would listen to experts who have been studying cancer for years. In fact, a review of various clinical trials by the Oregon Health and Science University found that mammograms for women ages 40-49 reduced deaths from breast cancer by 15% (Lichtenfeld, 2009). That is a significant number in my eyes.
A friend of mine had the insight to say that perhaps this was a political move by Republicans who would quickly take issue with the proposed government health care plan setting this as an example of what happens when the government gets involved. And sure enough, that is what has happened since Tuesday.
As a woman who will turn 40 next year, I was not looking forward to routine mammograms each year, but, I did feel better knowing that it would be one more assurance of staying healthy. Now, I feel stranded knowing that if I want to be tested I will likely have to pay for it myself in the future. The end result will probably be not getting tested nearly as often or perhaps not at all. And that is a scary predicament. It is even more so for women who have a history of breast cancer in their family, but do not have enough money or the coverage for a routine physical let alone paying for a mammogram. Let's keep our fingers crossed this won't happen.