Mammogram recommendation was 'misunderstood,' task force says

The the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's controversial recommendation that women under the age of 50 should not get mammograms was misunderstood message, leaders of the task force said in testimony prepared for a congressional hearing today, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

What the task force meant to say was that women in their 40s should decide with their doctors on when to start getting mammograms. In hind sight, task force leaders say they should have listened to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which, when presented with a draft of the controversial recommendation prior to it's release last month, felt that the recommendation's wording "would be misunderstood by clinicians, patients, policy makers and insurers." 

Despite the uproar and the ensuing about-face, an article in Physician's News Digest by Cathleen London, a primary-care doctor in Massachusetts, points out that mammography isn't all that effective in stopping breast cancer deaths. London says that current estimates show that mammographies only reduce the risk of breast cancer deaths by 15 percent, and adds that such tests often can lead to "overdiagnosis and/or over treatment." 

"Our goals should be to better understand the biology of breast cancer development and the use of newer diagnostic modalities," London says. "Only then can we hope to save women's lives." 

To learn more:
- read this WSJ article post
- read the Physician's News Digest article