A step in the wrong direction.

That's how Mayo Clinic, Decorah Clinic Physicians - Mayo Health System, Winneshiek Medical Center and Gundersen Lutheran are viewing an announcement last week from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) concerning mammograms.

The Task Force, an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations, recently suggested women don't need screening mammograms until age 50, and then every other year, rather than annually, citing overexposure to imaging procedures.

Response

"The new guidelines provided by USPSTF indicate breast cancer is not a concern for women under age 50. This is simply not true," said Kirby Clark, M.D., radiologist at Winneshiek Medical Center.

"There are many factors to consider in the current health care debate. Quality care must be the central focus, and relaxing mammography standards is a step in the wrong direction," said Clark.

Jeannette Gasal-Spilde, M.D., a Gundersen Lutheran clinical breast radiologist, agrees:

"Early detection is the key to saving lives, and annual mammograms give women the best chance for early detection. Screening women age 40 - 49 is reducing their risk of death from breast cancer by 15 percent, but because women in their 40s are at lower risk of breast cancer than women 50 and above, the USPSTF says the actual number of lives saved isn't enough for widespread screening. We disagree," said Gasal-Spilde.

While the Mayo Clinic task force acknowledges that annual screening does result in some additional imaging, physicians in the Mayo Breast Clinic also say that a substantial number of women who receive biopsies because of a screening mammogram are found to have cancer.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathryn Sibelius adds, "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've been doing for years - talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you."

For more information, contact Gundersen Lutheran at 608-775-5476 or Winneshiek Medical Center at 563-382-2991.