Mammogram panel says guidelines ‘poorly worded’

Bloomberg News

Women in their 40s should begin getting mammograms whenever they want, members of a U.S. advisory group told a House hearing Wednesday, saying their “poorly worded” recommendations last month had confused people.

Physicians with the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force told a House hearing that they had not meant to suggest that screenings were unnecessary for patients in that age group. Instead, the physicians said, they meant that screening is more effective for those 50 to 74.

Republicans had trumpeted the initial recommendations, issued Nov. 16, as evidence that the Democratic-sponsored healthcare overhaul would lead to rationing of medical care. And women whose cancers were detected by early screening objected that their lives could have been lost if the recommendations had existed earlier.


Democrats at the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health said the proposed healthcare overhaul would expand coverage for women and promote use of scientific evidence in determining the best care.

“Many women will decide to have mammogram screening at age 40,” said Diana Pettiti, a physician and vice chairwoman of the task force. “The task force supports those decisions. The task force communication was poor.”

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that he had no doubt the panel was “driven by science and by the interpretation of science -- and not by cost or insurance coverage or the ongoing healthcare debate.”