Shocking new breast exam guidelines could be dangerous for women

by Intern Sheila J

Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

While predicts that 40,480 American women are expected to die in 2008 from it, the good news is that death rates have been decreasing since 1990. The organization largely credits earlier detection among the top reasons for the decrease. So it’s understandable why women all over the U.S. are riled up about the new breast exam guidelines released Monday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force: it shockingly discourages early mammograms and self-exams.

Among their “new” advice? Women age 50 to 74 should have mammograms less frequently, such as every two years instead of every year. They also suggest that it’s not important for doctors to teach women to examine their breasts on a regular basis since it – yes – found “too little evidence” that self-exams were effective.

The task force are trivializing early screenings because, they say, they often lead to “unnecessary” and “costly” treatments. 

Many cancer survivors and doctors are outraged, saying that it will communicate to women age 50 and younger that skipping exams is OK because they are at less of a risk of the disease, which is entirely untrue. Some doctors, such as Donald A. Berry, a statistician at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, are speculating the motive behind the new guidelines is to reduce health costs. Dr. Berry told the New York Times that if they’re followed, billions of dollars will be saved.

Check out the new guidelines here.

What do you think? Should women skimp on mammograms and self-breast exams?

Sound off!

Photo courtesy of SheKnows

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