American task force defends mammogram guidelines

Members of a task force that issued controversial recommendations for breast cancer screenings defended the group’s guidelines but acknowledged “poor” communication in explaining them to women.

Members of a task force that issued controversial recommendations for breast cancer screenings defended the group’s guidelines but acknowledged “poor” communication in explaining them to women.

“The task force communication was poor,” said Dr. Diana B. Petitti, the vice chairwoman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, during a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing.

“The task force is saying that screenings starting at 40 should not be automatic, nor should they be denied. Many doctors and many women, perhaps even most women, will decide to have mammography screenings starting at age 40,” she said.

“The task force acknowledges that the language used . . . did not say what the task force meant to say,” she said, adding that it is committed to improving its communication.

The guidelines, released November 16, said that women in their 40s should not get routine mammograms for early detection of breast cancer.

For women ages 50 to 74, the task force recommends routine mammography screenings every two years.

The recommendations sparked an immediate outcry from cancer survivors and cancer groups that said that routine mammograms for women younger than 50 can save lives.

The group’s previous recommendation was for routine screenings every year or two for women ages 40 and older.

The task force is composed of 16 health care experts, none of whom are oncologists.

The group reviews medical data and bases recommendations on effectiveness and risks involved.