Here's a nice round up of opinions and press coverage of the controversy revolving around changing the beginning age for mammogram testing in women from 40 to 50. In the past several years having personally known several women under the age of 50 dealing with breast cancer, I have to admit I was dumbfounded by this new recommendation.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

It's not so much that cancer doesn't occur in women younger than 50. It's just that when it's caught younger, via mammogram, it's often unclear what to do. And there are false positives. So for every person saved, there are also people harmed. Also, there's conflicting data about how much screening actually reduces the odds that someone will die of breast cancer. Working out that math is a tough thing to do, and I'm glad I'm not on the panel!

In the end, it's a personal decision that a person has to work out with her doctor. And I *think* that's what the panel ended up saying? The problem, I think, isn't that this is what the panel ended up recommending. (It's not really a surprise: this is a debate that's been going on for decades.) The issue, really, is whether or not insurance companies and Medicare, etc., are going to adopt this policy as a guideline for what services are covered. And whether or not people will truly have the leeway to make this decision for themselves. So are we angry with the recommendation (which, frankly, seems to make a lot of sense), or are we anticipating some denial of care (which probably, unfortunately, IS a real worry)?

(For really great health reporting, I really like how University of Minnesota journalism and mass communication professor Gary Schwitzer's "grades" health stories in the mass media.)

He says that the Howard Kurtz article linked to above doesn't really add to public understanding of the issues. I agree. And if you scroll down on Schwitzer's blog, you'll find commentary on much of the mammography coverage. It's interesting reading. Check it out.

posted on Fri, 11/20/2009 - 4:17pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

Yeah, I didn't totally understand the reasons behind the new recommendation, but this article lays things out in a pretty straightforward way. It explains the statistics behind the recommendations, and how this information really didn't come out of the blue. (Even though it seemed like that for everyone who isn't in medical research.)

posted on Fri, 11/20/2009 - 4:48pm

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