New Mammography Guidelines Jolt Medical Field
Doctors Predict By-product of Screening Debate: More Talk With Patients About Mammograms
WebMD News Archive
Debate Over Screening Mammograms continued...
Leading medical groups, though, immediately announced their own guidelines
had not changed. The American Cancer Society reiterated its guideline for
annual screening mammography for all women beginning at age 40. The
organization says it reviewed "virtually all the same data" that the task force
scrutinized. “The lifesaving benefits of screening outweigh any potential
harms,’’ says Otis Brawley, MD, chief medical officer for the American Cancer
And the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says it
continues to recommend regular screening mammograms every one to two years for
women in their 40s, annual screening for women 50 and older, and
self-examination for breast cancer.
No Changes in Insurance Coverage
With health care reform percolating in the background, the mammography
discussion immediately shifted to how the new advice would affect insurance
The leading health insurance trade group says insurers would maintain the
status quo on mammograms. “Our interpretation is that women should be talking
to their doctors, and if their doctor orders the test, then it would be
covered,’’ says Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance
Plans. “We’ve advocated for women to get screened. That hasn’t changed.
Doctors and patients should be talking about benefits and harms.’’
Secretary of Health and Human Services Department Kathleen Sebelius
admits the recommendations "caused a great deal of confusion and worry among
women and their families," and emphasizes that the department's policies remain
Women who are currently getting mammograms under Medicare will continue to be able to get them, says a
spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare is the
federal health insurance program for people 65 and older and the disabled.
How the new guidelines will affect private employer coverage is unclear,
according to benefits consulting firm Mercer. “It is too soon to tell," says
Mercer spokeswoman Stephanie Poe, adding that there is "too much conflicting
advice" for employers to know if or how they would change their benefits
Guidelines Often Change
The task force advice, meanwhile, offers an example of how the practice of
medicine is not set in stone, doctors say.