Women fired up about proposed mammogram guidelines

PHILADELPHIA, PA.; November 19, 2009

And she says the panel which recommended that screening not begin until 50 years of age does not set policy.

Still it is clear the new recommendations have hit a raw nerve with women.... and those involved in the fight against breast cancer.

Deena Dell spends her days educating breast cancer patients at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

But at the age of 45, she became a patient herself. The tumor was found on a -

"Mammogram, a screening mammogram," she says.

Deena's cancer was very small, and easily treated.

But she worries what might have happened, had the proposed guidelines been enacted.

"If I had waited till I was 50, I might have had an invasive breast cancer which would have required more treatment," she notes.

All over the country, women are fired up that a government panel wants to change the mammogram screening guidelines.

At the American Cancer Society, phones were busy all day.

The panel says the chances of a woman getting breast cancer between 40 to 50 is slim... And screening before 50 may create unnecessary biopsies.

Dr. Gordon Schwartz, director of the Jefferson Breast Care Center, says his patients are outraged.

"They think this panel are jerks," he says.

Dr. Schwartz tells his patients to get their baseline mammogram at age 35, then yearly ones starting at 40.

He says his statistics, from 35 years of practice, show that mamograms early and often saves lives.

"Of all the patients I;ve seen who've had cancer picked up by mammography. 93% have survived at least 10 years. Walk in the door with a lump that you can feel? 70% - a 20% difference," he says.

Action News asked him about contentions by the panel that America is one of the few developed countries that has widespread screening for 40-49 year-old women.

"The death rate in the under-50 group is higher in those countries than it is in the United States," he told us.

The newly proposed guidelines are only for women without risks, such as a family history. Still doctors say most breast cancer appears in women with no history.

But as the debate continues, experts, like Dr. Kathryn Evers, the director of the breast imaging center at Fox Chase, says women should stick with getting a mammogram starting at age 40.

Dr. Evers says, "There is not any good evidence that was presented as any justification for the change in the guidelines."

She recommends women talk with their doctors about the best schedule for them.

Dr. Evers believes that women will mobilize to prevent the proposed guidelines from being accepted. At this point, dozens of hospitals, and many medical organizations have come out against the changes.

"I don't really understand the rush to change," she says.

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