Women in their 40s should stop routinely having annual mammograms and older women should cut back to one scheduled exam every other year, an influential federal task force has concluded, challenging the use of one of the most common medical tests.
In its first reevaluation of breast cancer screening since 2002, the independent government-appointed panel recommended the changes, citing evidence that the potential harm to women having annual exams beginning at age 40 outweighs the benefit.
Coming amid a highly charged national debate over health-care reform and simmering suspicions about the possibility of rationing medical services, the recommendations immediately became enveloped in controversy.
“We’re not saying women shouldn’t get screened. Screening does saves lives,” said Diana B. Petitti, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the recommendations Monday in a paper being published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine. “But we are recommending against routine screening. There are important and serious negatives or harms that need to be considered carefully.”
This is certainly a surprising move by the feds. Researchers discovered that it was because of breast cancer screenings that women with breast cancer have a 14 percent higher survival rate in the United States than in Europe. Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Breast cancer mortality is also 9 percent higher in Canada than in the US. Less than 25 percent of U.S. women die from breast cancer. In Britain, it’s 46 percent; France, 35 percent; Germany, 31 percent; Canada, 28 percent; Australia, 28 percent, and New Zealand, 46 percent.
It looks like that is about to change even before Obamacare.