Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Skip that Mammogram? Maybe... [UPDATED & BUMPED]

[Please scroll down for updates]

Earlier this year, we reported on surprising news that perhaps PAP tests weren't "all that." Now comes news that, for many 40-something women, mammograms may not be "all that," either:

"Most women don't need a mammogram in their 40s and should get one every two years starting at 50 ... It's a major reversal that conflicts with the American Cancer Society's long-standing position."

But wait, it gets better (or worse):

"[B]reast self-exams do no good and women shouldn't be taught to do them."

If this was just any old think-tank, one might be tempted to call this irresponsible and potentially dangerous advice. But it isn't, it's "the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, whose stance influences coverage of screening tests by Medicare and many insurance companies."

In the other corner, of course, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, responds that "[o]ur concern is that as a result of that confusion, women may elect not to get screened at all. And that, to me, would be a serious problem."

So which is it?

Hard to say, but even the ACS has apparently been "backing off promoting breast self-exams in recent years because of scant evidence of their effectiveness."

And since most health insurance plans cover mammograms, some at no cost to the insured, it's unlikely that we'll see demand for them sagging. And we'll leave it at that.

[Hat Tip: SoIB Joyce Ferreiro]

UPDATE: There may be a diabolical undercurrent to the panel's findings. Hot Air's Ed Morrissey reports that as recently as 6 months ago, the same panel was sounding the alarm in a statistically insignificant drop in the number of 40-something women having these exams. Now, they're lauding the same outcome. What's changed? Under ObamaCare, "the government will be paying for a lot more of these exams ... That will put a serious strain on resources, especially since many of the providers will look to avoid dealing with government-managed care and its poor compensation rates."

Ed also notes that none of the 16 members of the U.S Preventive Services Task Force is an oncologist.
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