Tuesday, November 17, 2009
New Guidelines for Breat Cancer Screening Just Released.
The new recommendations, while not applicable to women in high risk groups, suggest the following; 1) mammograms beginning at age 50, 2) mammograms administered every two years rather than yearly, 3) that physicians stop teaching women to examine their breast regularly. The justification offered is to "reduce harm from over treatment."
The new guidelines are currently available for review at The Annals of Internal Medicine. It is likely the new guidelines will set off heated controversy. Especially so as they run contrary to some professional and advocacy groups position.
The National Cancer Institute is taking the initial position of re-evaluating its guidelines given the tasks force new report.
The American Cancer Society, as well as the American College of Radiology, are sticking with their guidelines and will continue to recommend mammograms beginning at age forty and be administered annually thereafter.
While the new recommended guidelines will likely have no immediate impact on insurance policies, it is likely they will result in less aggressively prompting women in their forties to get mammograms and women in their fifties to have one annually.
In formulating its guidelines the task force used new studies in mammography from nine other than England and Sweden to arrive at their recommendations. Six statistical groups were utilized to analyze the data and set up models showing the relative impact of annual screening, and what the benefits are of annual screening.
The last time the task force made recommendations and issues guidelines was in 2002. The report recommended that women in their forties be screened for breast cancer annully. At the time Tommy Thompson, then Secretary of Health and Human Services, announced the report there were allegations of political influence, and that the report was politically motivated. Doctor Alfred Bird of the University of Washington, task force chairman, denied political motivation saying "there was absolutely zero political influence on what the task force did."
The shaded area, taken directly from the NYT article illustrates the cost savings to the nation through implementation of these new guidelines. The task force concluded that one cancer death is prevented for every 1,904 women age 40 to 49 who are screened for 10 years, compared with one death for every 1,339 women age 50 to 74, and one death for every 377 women age 60 to 69. The ethical question to be asked, and answered, is whether the lives of those who survive breast cancer as the result of such screening is of enough value to offset the costs associated with mass early screening and detection.
The question is one that needs to be answered. For anyone to believe the timing of this is not at least partially influenced by political motivation would be ludicrous. The drive for nationalized socialist cradle to grave health care is picking up a head of steam in the Obama dream years and will likely continue to do so. What we are witnessing with this is quite likely a preview of what we will come to see and know on a large scale, as the Federal Big Bother and Sister Government under Obama, and future Presidents must find ways to balance the federal budget.
Via: New York Times
Via: American Cancer Society
Via: National Cancer Institute