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Cancer Screening Recommendations Cause Uproar
Wait to Have Mammograms, Researchers Say
A new study, released in November, recommended changes to the current screening process for breast cancer. Researchers advised women who did not have a family history of breast cancer or any other predisposition to the disease to wait until the age of 50, not 40, to have a mammogram. They also suggested that doctors should no longer tell patients to perform self-examinations. The study cited unnecessary cancer scares and surgeries as the reason behind the change in guidelines; however, many critics saw the modification as emblematic of changes that will accompany health-care reform.
Though the architect of the study, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, is sponsored by the government, the Obama administration distanced itself from the new breast cancer screening guidelines. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Heath and Human Services, announced soon after the guidelines were released that government insurance programs will still cover mammograms for women beginning at age 40.
Fewer Pap Smears Needed
In an unfortunately timed release, a study on cervical cancer screenings completed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists was released days after the breast cancer screening study. Though completely unrelated to the breast cancer study, researchers again recommended looser guidelines for screenings; they announced that women can wait until age 21, or within three years of becoming sexually active, to begin receiving Pap smears, the test that checks for cervical cancer. Additionally, if a Pap smear returns negative results, then a woman can wait three years until the next exam. Guidelines formerly recommended women get annual pap smears beginning at age 18.
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