Thursday, November 19, 2009
Save the ta-tas!
Okay, apparently it's time to add my two cents to the political firestorm surrounding the mammogram issue. Unless you've been living under a rock the past week, you've heard about the U.S. Preventive Task Force's recommendation that women in their 40s forgo annual mammograms unless they have certain risk factors, like genetic mutations that make them more susceptible to breast cancer. The task force also said self-exams are useless and recommended women over 50 get mammograms every other year instead of annually.
And what was the basis of their decision? Apparently, a review of clinical data showed that annual mammograms have only reduced the risk of breast cancer death by 15 percent. At the same time, the panel of doctors and scientists concluded that such early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies, without substantially improving women's odds of survival.
"Harms of screening include psychological harms, additional medical visits, imaging, and biopsies in women without cancer, inconvenience due to false-positive screening results, harms of unnecessary treatment, and radiation exposure," the panel said.
Of course, it's important to note that these new guidelines are influential but not binding. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for example, emphasized that the task force does not not set federal policy or determine what services are covered by the federal government.
"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer and they still are today," said Sebelius. "Keep doing what you have been doing for years - talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you."
All I have to say is, I understand that many women have had to go through painful, and often costly, procedures only to discover a "false positive." But having lost friends and loved ones to breast cancer, isn't the anxiety worth the possibility that it could result in an early breast cancer diagnosis for someone else?
So please, please, PLEASE ladies...listen to the American Cancer Society and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, both of which still recommend routine annual mammograms starting at age 40. I just hope that the nation's insurance companies don't use the panel's recommendations as a reason to stop paying for mammograms.
Alright, my rant is finished and I'm climbing off the soapbox. By the way, I'll be working on some recipes this weekend in preparation for Thanksgiving...so I promise to post some yummy, low calorie recipes and menu ideas next week before the big day.