New mammogram guidelines cause uproar in medical community - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/17/09

New mammogram guidelines cause uproar in medical community

By Tiffany Pelt - email

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A new set of guidelines has women confused about when to get a mammogram. Monday, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women wait until age 50 to get that screening for breast cancer. Many aren't taking this news lightly since breast cancer is already the number two killer of women in this country.

Across the South Plains and the country Tuesday women of all ages were talking about breast cancer, and it wasn't a very pleasant debate. Local medical branches and national organizations are disregarding new recommendations on the age women should get mammograms.

The US Preventive Task force is now recommending women not get mammograms at age 40, which is the common practice. They now say women should be screened from ages 50 to 74, and that self breast examinations aren't beneficial and shouldn't even be taught.

Local medical providers like Covenant and UMC think otherwise and are disregarding the new guidelines."It's a terrible idea, they made too much of a change. Right now the protocol calls for a mammogram every year from 40 and on, and they've changed that, skipping an entire decade," said UMC's Chief Radiologist Dr. Frank Quattromani.

In 2008, UMC had a total of 58 breast cancer patients. Thirty percent of those were under 50 years old. On top of that, many were discovered by self breast examinations. "We had a woman in her 20's with breast cancer. She felt it, so that's self evaluation. We had another one at 30 recently, self evaluation found breast cancer," said Quattromani.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation refuses to follow the new guidelines as well, and will continue supporting self breast exams and getting screened at 40. "Mammography is the best screening tool we have, and mammography isn't perfect but it's what we have. We see it detecting breast cancer in women in their 40's if not even earlier," said Ashley Hamm with the Komen Foundation.

That imperfection is what's causing a stir. The task force says younger women have denser breasts, causing unreliable test results. This leads to false positives and unnecessary biopsies. Also statistics show the majority of women develop breast cancer between ages 50 to 85.

But none the less, many radiologists and oncologists say that's a risk they're not willing to take and if this goes into practice, "we're going to miss cancers," said Quattromani.

Insurance companies are influenced by the task force's recommendations, but it's still too early to tell how this will change the health care policies.

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11/17/09
Local medical professionals sound off on new mammogram recommendations
A new recommendation on breast cancer screening is causing an uproar in the medical community here in Lubbock.
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