Just about every news outlet in the country covered the story. Naturally, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® took a stand, issuing a news release that said that the organization “wants to eliminate any impediments to regular mammography screening for women age 40 and older. While there is no question that mammograms save lives for women over 50 and women 40–49, there is enough uncertainty about the age at which mammography should begin and the frequency of screening that we would not want to see a change in policy for screening mammography at this time.'
Well, thankfully, the discourse and pressure from women’s groups, doctors and lawmakers worked. The Senate just approved an amendment to the health-overhaul bill that, as a recent Wall Street Journal article announced, effectively nullified the Task Force’s guidelines and promised mammogram coverage for women starting at age 40.
And, the House voted an impressive 426 – 0 for a resolution saying the guidelines shouldn’t be used by insurers to deny coverage for routine screening.
As executive director of the Denver Metropolitan Affiliate for Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, I couldn’t be happier about this shift in tides. While it’s true that mammography isn’t perfect, it is still our best tool for early detection and successful treatment of this disease. New screening approaches and more individualized recommendations for breast cancer screening are urgently needed. Komen for the Cure is currently funding research initiatives designed to improve screening, and we believe that it is imperative that this research move forward rapidly. Locally, the Komen Denver Affiliate funds 32 programs providing breast cancer education, screening and treatment services to medically underserved women and men in our community.
The issues raised and being discussed surrounding the validity and effectiveness of mammography, screening and self-exams are vitally important. But, rather than arguing and causing undue worry and stress about the availability and validity of mammograms, perhaps our real focus should be on the fact that one-third of the women who qualify for screening under today’s guidelines are not being screened due to lack of access, education or awareness. This issue needs focus and attention: if we can make progress with screening in vulnerable populations, we could make more progress in the fight against breast cancer.
About the Author:
Michele Ostrander is the executive director of the Denver Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. For more information visit http://www.komendenver.org/.