Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Scary Predicament

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.


  1. Up here in the great white north this doesn't affect me directly but I am hoping the powers that be south of me use their common sense!!!

  2. My biggest problem with this recommendation is that it is based solely on science. We cannot make proclaimations of this magnitude and not consider the "anecdotes" of actual women who are survivors of this terrible disease. Unless that is that we are treating robots and not human beings.

    Now their point is that a mammogram is radiation and it takes testing 2000 women to find 1 thereby unnecessarily radiating 1999 women. However, isn't that my choice? If my doctor says that I don't need one but I want to take the risk to be sure, isn't that my choice?

    Beyond that, the recommendation also says that self-examines are useless. What? I know my breasts better than you do buddy. Who are you to take my tool of power away from me with your "science". Can you replace that power with something else?

    We have worked long and hard to have the medicial community to listen to women. They are saying that the money for the unnecessary mammograms can be used in better areas like treatment and better tests. Don't talk to me about money when more money has been spent on erectile disfunction. You can be damned sure that if there were a "recommendation" about ED, there would be all kinds of alternatives provided. Sure, he can't get it up but my boobs could be killing me. Tell me that is equitable?

  3. Thanks Sue for the additional info- I haven't had time to research it yet as much as I would like. I feel very much the same. Another reason they are giving is because they say too many women endure a false-positive situation where they receive some results showing they have cancer and then later this is found to be incorrect. I would personally rather risk this than not know when I did have cancer. And if a false-positive situation were to happen, then I would still be glad to know that in the end it still meant a doctor is watching out for me and perhaps will continue to do so more since it was once a possibility.

  4. Thanks for information Susie. I actually was at a Rotary club meeting listening to the American Cancer society do a presentation... the day after they announced this. It was nice hear from one of their representatives that the American Cancer Society still supported yearly mammograms. I do hope we don't have to pay for them in the future.

  5. Great blog post. I will also post about this and link back to you.