Friday, November 20, 2009

a rant regarding mammograms

I am sure that most of you are aware of the new guidelines offered by the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce (USPSTF) regarding the frequency of screening mammograms.

I am incensed.

I agree that most women are not aware of the potential "risk" from mammograms. I, however, would be more than willing to have a couple of false positives, even including biopsies, in exchange for being less likely to die of an undetected cancer - to me, the risk to benefit ratio still leads me to more frequent testing. This choice should belong to each individual woman.

One member of the committee, when interviewed last night, stated that their goal was to allow women to have more choices as far as their screening and health care was concerned. Is the committee so naive/blind/stupid as to think that the insurance companies will not seize upon this opportunity to save money?

Insurance companies are sure to latch on to this new recommendation and refuse to pay for mammograms more frequently than every other year starting at age 50. Most women cannot afford to pay for their own mammograms. In that way, the committee's stated goal of allowing women to have more choices in guiding their health care will actually be less likely to be achieved.

Once the insurance company changes their payment schedule, using these guidelines as their reason, women and their doctors will no longer be able to decide whether they need more frequent testing. Women will have to pay for more frequent mammos (most will not be able to afford that) or ask their doctors to take time out of what are already busy schedules to justify to the insurance company (how many hoops do you think that will involve?) the need for more frequent testing. How much of a back log do you think that will cause?

Leaving the recommendations as they were and providing more information about the frequency of false positives and risks of unnecessary treatments would serve women much better. Lets leave the choice to the women involved, and give them as much information as possible to help guide them to make the best choice for them.

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