Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Republicans In Favor of Higher Insurance Premiums, Unnecessary Patient Stress

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) has decided that an independent advisory panel's suggestion to scale back mammogram recommendations is the front lines of government-controlled health care. This is roughly 100% poppycock. First off, said advisory panel has no authority to change anything. Second, there's a decent amount of evidence that the panel's right anyway. The US of A has high cancer survival rates. But we also diagnose more cancers. If you look at the death rate due to breast cancer (as opposed to the survival rate among diagnosed patients), the US isn't really a world leader. In the United Kingdom, regular mammograms start at age 50 and continue once every three years. The new recommendations suggest starting at age 50 with screenings every 2 years. Mammograms have a notoriously high false positive rate, especially in the United States, where one in seven patients returns for further testing, as opposed to less than one in ten in the UK. That's a lot of women who have to sit through several weeks thinking they might have breast cancer, and a lot of money spent on testing.

Thankfully, Ms Blackburn is not a Senator, so she can't force the executive branch to bend to her wishes by placing a hold random nominations.

Also, in the interest of gender equality let me add that the same thing goes for prostate cancer. As with breast cancer, the survival rate among diagnosed patients is very high, but the survival rate among the overall population is average. One read is that Americans are more cancerous and better treated. Another read is that Americans are overdiagnosed, with a number of patients receive treatment for "marginal" cancer that isn't life threatening.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Someone very dear to me, with a healthy lifestyle, who nursed three babies and had no family history of cancer had a mammogram which ultimately led to the diagnosis of her Stage 1 breast cancer. This was at the age of 43. Except for that recommendation to have a mammogram every year after 40, she would have had no reason to suspect anything was wrong in those early stages. We are delighted that after six years, she is still with us and very healthy after being successfully treated. Once this happens, whether it is exceptional or not, you don't really give a damn what the statistics are. That mammogram saved her life. When I was growing up, finding out people you knew were diagnosed with breast cancer was pretty much a death sentence for them. I'm not worried in a political kind of way, but in a way that women will avoid going through an uncomfortable, at best, procedure that could save their lives. Not only that, but the procedure reveals other information as well, such as calcifications, etc., that need to be watched.