Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mammogram Mayhem

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, known for overseeing and understanding preventative health care diagnostic testing, has issued a statement regarding new recommendations in mammography screening. Previously they recommended that mammogram screenings be performed every 1 to 2 years on women over the age of 40, to help prevent breast cancer via early diagnosis. As with other diagnostic tests involving low dose radiation, mammograms have their fair share of risk involved. The question has always been whether or not that risk out weighs the benefit. Prior to this month, that answer has been commonly believed to be no. Now, however, that answer has come under much scrutiny as new studies are surfacing in opposition to that understanding. What is now being stated by the U.S.P.S.T.F (that's just a long name) is that routine mammography for women between the ages of 40-49 can actually be more dangerous, due to a large number of misdiagnosed cases, causing unnecessary treatment for women who otherwise were healthy. If this were a case of "Take two and call me in the morning," that probably wouldn't be such a problem, but cancer treatment, painful and potentially deadly, is hardly a matter to be taken lightly.

Clinics around the nation now are having to do their own reviews of this information now and will be forced to re-educate their patient base. Ultimately it's still a matter of risk assessment and hopefully patients will choose to educate themselves as much as possible to be as informed about their decisions as they can be.


Candice said...

Here's my concern over this decision. The American Breast Cancer Society has said that their recommendations for screenings remain unchanged. Eighteen percent of women with breast cancer are diagnosed in their 40's. I think when you look at countries who use government panel recommendations for their guidelines, like the UK and Germany, it's clear that we're better off listening to health professionals than a bunch of bureaucrats.

Here's something to consider. Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

These are countries where health care is socialized and all cancer treatment recommendations are made by government panels.

Source:Concord Working Group, "Cancer survival in five continents: a worldwide population-based study,.S. abe at responsible for theountries, in s chnologies, " Lancet Oncology, Vol. 9, No. 8, August 2008, pages 730 - 756; Arduino Verdecchia et al., "Recent Cancer Survival in Europe: A 2000-02 Period Analysis of EUROCARE-4 Data," Lancet Oncology, Vol. 8, No. 9, September 2007, pages 784 - 796.

Voidwalker said...

It certainly leaves you thinking, when you consider those numbers. As a man (or boy depending on who you ask) I was not very familiar with the mammogram recommendations, for women 40-49, prior to this announcement. I'm surprised how much controversy this topic has fueled in the media, but I don't have any authority to say it should or shouldn't be done. All I know is, be informed :)