Senators Hear Testimony on Mammogram ‘Controversy’
In a joint session of two Senate subcommittees yesterday, lawmakers heard testimony from experts on the debate over whether mammograms help to reduce breast cancer deaths and "pointedly threw their political support" behind the test, the New York Times reports. During the hearing, Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, director of the National Cancer Institute, said that women older than age 40 should receive mammograms every one to two years, a restatement of new guidelines released by the Bush administration last week. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) agreed. "Mammograms should not be equated with nose jobs. I believe that mammograms do save lives, and women should know when to get them," she said. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) added, "Everyone in this room knows that by early detection, we have saved lives." However, Dr. Donald Berry, chair of the department of biostatistics at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, testified that studies have found that the "benefits of mammograms did not outweigh the risks," such as unnecessary surgery to remove benign tumors. Lawmakers also raised concerns about whether health insurers would drop coverage for mammograms as a result of the "controversy" over the tests. "I'm concerned that in this atmosphere of inconclusiveness, the insurance companies will use this as an excuse to wiggle out of reimbursement," Mikulski said.
Last October, Danish researchers said that they had found "serious flaws" in seven large studies on mammograms, which prompted advisers to the National Cancer Institute to conclude in January that the "benefits of mammograms might not outweigh the risks." But the Bush administration last week issued a recommendation in favor of mammograms every one to two years for women ages 40 to 69 (Stolberg, New York Times, 3/1).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.