Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Breast Cancer Screening USPSTF

As many of you know the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently came out with new recommendations for mammogram screening for breast cancer that included the recommendation that women 40-49 not be screened routinely despite approximately 35,000 breast cancers are detected in this age group each year and that each year there are over 4,000 deaths in women in their 40's. USPSTF is not a government agency but it is funded by the federal government so although the recommendations are not official US policy they are pretty close to being so in actual practice. The American Cancer Society has been very active in refuting this recommendation.

I indicated before that I thought this recommendation was entirely based upon desire for cost control with the sense that women in their 40's could go ahead and die with breast cancer as the number of cases detected by mammograms each year was not enough to justify routine screening according to USPSTF. We were assured that this was not primarily a cost saving recommendation but already USPSTF recommendations are being used to deny screening to poor women. Most states have been providing free mammogram and Pap smear screenings for the uninsured poor. But already less than a month after the USPSTF recommendations the state of New York has changed it's policy. Women less than 50 are no longer eligible for free screening unless they have a "serious" family cancer history. We will have to see how soon other states follow New York's lead.

Thought for the day

"Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream".

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