The controversy over when a woman should get mammograms is about to heat up again.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts whose members are appointed by the federal government, issued a final set of recommendations late Monday saying that women between the ages of 50 and 74 should get routine screening once every two years. The task force’s guidelines are important because insurers and government programs often follow the panel’s recommendations in deciding whether to cover certain preventive services.
The task force’s final recommendation is likely to be controversial because some other groups say the screening should start earlier. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, for example, recommends that regular screenings begin at age 40, while the American Cancer Society calls for women to start yearly screening at age 45 and then move to screening every two years starting at age 55.
Congress has sided with proponents of earlier screening. Last month, in anticipation of Monday’s release of the task force’s final recommendation, lawmakers took preemptive action: It directed insurers to ignore the task force’s latest guidelines and, instead, to rely on its 2002 recommendation. That called for annual mammograms to begin at 40. As a result of the congressional action, women in their 40s will continue to be able to get annual mammograms at no cost.
The differences over when to start regular screening reflect the growing concern that the benefits of mammograms may have been oversold, and that they don’t outweigh the anxiety and potential harm caused by over-diagnosis and false positives from the tests.
(Click here to read the full article, written by Lena H. Sun, Washington Post)