We Stopped the Guidelines
Thanks to support from people like you, Congress passed and the president signed legislation into law on Dec. 18 that includes language from the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act. This legislation prevents the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF or Task Force) draft breast cancer screening recommendations from being implemented for two years. This two-year “time out” will allow for a more thorough and inclusive conversation about the value of early detection and breast cancer screening, while ensuring women’s continued access to lifesaving mammograms.
With one in eight women developing breast cancer during their lifetime, the earlier we can detect breast cancer, the better. After all, these are our mothers, daughters, grandmothers, wives, sisters and friends, the people we care about most.
That's why we were concerned about new breast cancer screening recommendations proposed by the USPSTF. The draft recommendations give annual mammograms for women ages 40-49 a "C" grade, meaning most women in this age group, according to the Task Force, do not need an annual exam. The proposed recommendations also state that women 50-74 need mammograms only every other year. You can review the proposed recommendations in more detail here.
What’s at Stake?
If implemented, the recommendations would have limited access to lifesaving mammography exams. In light of the "C" grade, insurance companies would no longer have been required to cover mammograms without cost sharing (co-payment or deductible) for women ages 40-49. The impact would have been far reaching, affecting 22 million women between the ages of 40-49. This would have included 2.8 million African American women, who have the highest rate of mortality from breast cancer and also are 45% less likely to have health insurance than white women. Avalere Health, an independent, nonpartisan health care advisory company, weighed in on the issue of insurance coverage for mammograms, reporting that the draft breast cancer screening recommendations could lead to millions of women ages 40-49 losing their insurance coverage of mammograms.
How Many Cancers Are We Willing to Miss?
For many women in America, having to pay for a mammogram would be a deterrent to getting this critical exam. Women would continue to delay their mammogram or not go at all, meaning cancers would go undetected or caught at a later stage when mortality rates are higher and more invasive treatments are needed.
Which of our mothers, wives, daughters, grandmothers, sisters, and friends is it okay to lose?
Even More Accurate Exams are at Risk
The Task Force also found the evidence regarding 3D mammography to be insufficient. It dismissed hundreds of peer-reviewed publications that clearly and consistently show 3D mammography significantly increases the detection of invasive cancer while reducing false positive recall rates – all of which are key concerns about conventional mammograms raised by the Task Force.