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A Harbinger of Things to Come?

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On November 17, 2009, the US Preventative Services Task Force, a panel of experts working under the auspices of the US Department of Health and Human Services, issued a report that turned conventional wisdom on its head.

After the investment of decades exhorting women to get early mammograms and to perform routing self-examination as screening for breast cancer—and after racking up several years of improving survival rates for breast cancer—these experts recommended a retreat in the war against breast cancer. Against the advice of the American Cancer Society, and against the advice of most practicing physicians who work with breast cancer patients, the panel advised women to get mammograms starting at age 50 (instead of 40, as currently recommended), and to get them only every other year, rather than annually, for screening screening purposes once they turn 50. In addition, the panel “poo-pooed “ the usefulness of breast self-exams.

The panel of experts consists of doctors and nurses who primarily work in public health administration, and rarely engage in clinical practice with patients. Not one is a radiologist, oncologist, or surgeon who cares for cancer patients (like myself).

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