The USPSTF (U.S. Preventative Services Task Force), an independent panel of primary care & prevention experts, has put out new guidelines for the frequency of mammograms for women in the 40-50 age group. For the first time since 1989, a gvt. panel of any sort, is ordering women to forego routine mammograms and ease up on a host of other breast screening tests.
Mammograms which are mandated in almost all states, can be provided on an annual basis to all woman starting at age 40. These mammograms along with self examinations have led to the highest survival rates for breast cancer in the world. So the question becomes, why the change in guidelines?
The panel based it's new guidelines on a series of tests that determined that the benefits of getting mammograms do not outweigh the "harms" and risks. These new guidelines contradict the American Cancer Society. The following statement critical of the USPSTF conveys the feelings of many in the medical industry:
“Tens of thousands of lives are being saved by mammography screening, and these idiots want to do away with it,” said Daniel B. Kopans, a radiology professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s crazy — unethical, really.”
Those opposed, point to the many false-positives that result from over testing as well as the additional exposure to radiation.They claim that while testing does save lives, there are important and serious negatives or harms that need to be considered carefully. But the biggest reason for this turnabout may have to do with money and not about saving lives.
Change of Position
Earlier in the year, this same panel, was up in arms over a slight decline in mammograms amongst women in their 40's. They went as far as issuing a warning to women that they would be essentially putting their lives at risk by not getting their annual mammograms. They ballyhooed about the importance of mammograms and catching the disease at it's earliest stages. Sort of the same fear-mongering and hysteria caused by the Department of Health & Human Services & Swine-flu.
The story behind the change.
It is cause for concern when the government does an about face about a subject matter as critical and important as screening and testing for the early detection of breast cancer. It is cause for concern when our very own President preaches about the benefits of preventive care and it's role in reducing long term healthcare costs, but then a government panel turns around does the exact opposite. Whereas the President preaches the benefits of preventive care, the USPSTF discounts it as useless and unnecessary.
It seems clear to me that the driving force behind this decision is really all about cost. The government knows that if they are going to run our healthcare, mammograms will add a huge burden to tax payers and the cost of delivering healthcare to an additional 10-15 million woman who may be in the age range for this type of testing. The CBO, which has most likely already come up with a score on these screenings, may have had something to do with the turnabout as well.
It is no surprise either that of the 16 members of the USPSTF panel, not one member is an oncologist. This should tell you something about the new recommendations they put out and the driving force behind it.
One of the collateral effects of government run healthcare will be the exodus of health providers that will likely walk away and not deal with the low compensation rates the government will be paying out. If this happens, the government will be stuck with paying for these services for millions of patients.
This may be just a sneak preview of the power of the government to change the rules on the go as they realize that government run healthcare may not be the solution to our healthcare needs. If this is taking place now, it won't be too long before you see other services being rationed.
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