Sebelius: Women should get mammograms by age 40

November 18, 2009 By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID , AP Science Writer
Reps. Sue Myrick, R-N.C., center, gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009, to discuss the new mammogram guidelines. From left are, Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Myrick, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. and Rep. Jean Schmidt, R- Ohio. Myrick is a breast cancer is a breast cancer survivor. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP) -- Women should continue getting regular mammograms starting at age 40, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Wednesday, moving to douse confusion caused by a task-force recommendation two days earlier.

Sebelius issued her statement following a government panel's recommendation on Monday, that said most women don't need in their 40s and should get one every two years starting at 50.

That recommendation was a break with the American Cancer Society's long-standing position that women should get screening mammograms starting at age 40.

The task force does "not set federal policy and they don't determine what services are covered by the ," Sebelius said.

Medicare, which covers older Americans and some younger ones who are disabled, provides women on Medicare coverage for an annual mammogram at age 40 and older.

Sebelius noted that there has been debate about the age at which routine mammograms should begin, and how often they should be given.

"The task force has presented some new evidence for consideration but our policies remain unchanged," she said. "Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action."

"My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important lifesaving tool in the fight against and they still are today. Keep doing what you have been doing for years - talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you," Sebelius said.

In the meantime, she added, it is clear that more research is needed into ways to help women prevent and fight breast cancer.

The recommendations from the task force have left across the country confused about which advice to take. It also quickly led to charges from opponents of changing health care policy that it is an example of what could be expected from government-managed care.

In its report the panel of doctors and scientists concluded that such early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies, without substantially improving women's odds of survival.

But their recommendation was loudly criticized by breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed at a young age.

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New approach attacks 'undruggable' cancers from the outside in

January 23, 2018
Cancer researchers have made great strides in developing targeted therapies that treat the specific genetic mutations underlying a patient's cancer. However, many of the most common cancer-causing genes are so central to ...

Study: Cells of three advanced cancers die with drug-like compounds that reverse chemo failure

January 23, 2018
Researchers at Southern Methodist University have discovered three drug-like compounds that successfully reverse chemotherapy failure in three of the most commonly aggressive cancers—ovarian, prostate and breast.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.