WHERE WE STAND
Recently, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) rocked the medical community by instituting guidelines that would make it more difficult to diagnose breast cancer while it is easiest to treat. Instead of advising women to start yearly mammogram screenings at age 40, they asserted that women could wait until age 50 and only get a mammogram every two years until age 74. If these guidelines become officially established, they would allow insurance companies to stop covering mammograms for women under the age of 50, making them virtually unattainable for millions of women.
The connection between mammogram screenings and survival rates has been evaluated in multiple studies, and most have demonstrated that early mammogram screenings save lives. Detecting cancer in its early stages enables doctors to treat it more effectively. According to Dr. John West, Director of Surgery at Breastlink, women who start regular cancer screenings at age 40 are 20-60 percent more likely to survive than women who delay screenings until a later age. Additionally, in a study published by the National Institutes of Health that followed a group of women in their 40’s over a three-year period who were screened yearly, 20 percent of them ended up receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, and over half of these were invasive.
Another benefit to initiating mammogram screenings at the age of 40 is to give physicians the opportunity to see changes in a woman’s breast tissue over time. This can also help lead to finding breast cancer in earlier stages. A report in UPI states that deaths from breast cancer would fall 40 percent with annual screenings beginning at age 40 and continuing to age 84.
On June 20, Senators Marsha Blackburn and Dianne Feinstein introduced a new bill that would postpone the recommendations of the USPSTF. Their bill would continue the moratorium on the USPSTF recommendations that was put in place by the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings Act (PALS). This moratorium has already been extended several times.
The PALS Act is sponsored by a bipartisan consortium of senators who each acknowledge that breast cancer screening must be accessible to all women at a time when the disease is most curable. They recognize that until there is a cure for breast cancer, access to affordable mammograms is vital for all women.
RadNet has been campaigning against these guidelines along with Dr. West and Breastlink, since they were first announced. We launched a campaign to take action against them, which you can join, by:
The goal of this campaign is to spread the message and educate more women on this important issue. With your help, we can help countless women detect cancer when it’s most curable.