HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issued the following statement today on new breast cancer screening recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force:
“There is no question that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations have caused a great deal of confusion and worry among women and their families across this country.”
“I want to address that confusion head on. The U.S. Preventive Task Force is an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations. They do not set federal policy and they don’t determine what services are covered by the federal government.
“There has been debate in this country for years about the age at which routine screening 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. Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action.
“What is clear is that there is a great need for more evidence, more research and more scientific innovation to help women prevent, detect, and fight breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women.
“My message to women is simple. Mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer 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.”
In the background of this statement:
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years. The decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years should be an individual one and take patient context into account, including the patient’s values regarding specific benefits and harms.
The USPSTF recommends biennial screening mammography for women aged 50 to 74 years.
The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms of screening mammography in women 75 years or older.
The USPSTF recommends against teaching breast self-examination (BSE).
The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms of clinical breast examination (CBE) beyond screening mammography in women 40 years or older.
The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the additional benefits and harms of either digital mammography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) instead of film mammography as screening modalities for breast cancer.
Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, USA