For nearly two decades, the American Cancer Society has been recommending annual mammograms beginning at 40. However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government panel of doctors and scientists, recently issued a controversal report that mammograms are not recommended until age 50 and then only every other year. In response to the government report, the Cancer Society’s chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley stated “This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over,”
Dr. Brawley went on to offer this sharp criticism of the report: “The task force advice is based on its conclusion that screening 1,300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but that screening 1,900 women in their 40s to save a life is not, Brawley wrote. That stance “is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives, just not enough of them,” he added.
As a Georgia Injury Lawyer that deals with insurance companies on a daily basis, I’m concerned about the insurance implications this task force report will have on healthcare. Although research shows annual mammograms beginning at age 40 save lives, I fear health insurance companies will use this recent report to justify refusing payment for mammograms before the age of 50 and then only authorize mammograms every other year. Like prexisting conditions and other insurance created concepts, this will give insurance companies additional opportunities to accept premiums without providing appropriate benefits.
This task force panel made the exact opposite recommendation in 2002 and the only major studies since then favor mammography. So not suprisingly, many doctors and experts are now questioning the motives of the panel. With so many lives at stake, it would be appropriate for there to be an inquiry into whether any conflicts of interest exist between members of the panel and the insurance companies that will likely profit from the report.