Did anybody else catch today’s conversation between CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Nurse Lucy Marion from the U.S. Preventive Task Force (the group that released this week’s controversial recommendation that women should begin routine mammograms 10 years later than previously determined, and perform less self-examinations–in order to prevent unnecessary “anxiety” and costly biopsy tests)?
We don’t have the terse/awkward video, but here’s a transcript of the throwdown:
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: About 75 to 90 percent of breast cancers are found in women who have absolutely no family history and no identifiable risk factors. If you are a woman hearing that at age 40, right now watching, 75 to 90 percent of breast cancers found with people who have no risk factors, no family history, what should they do?
LUCY MARION, PREVENTIVE SERVICES TASK FORCE: I would not recommend it. I would not make a recommendation. We’re saying that the benefits are small.
GUPTA: What do you mean by that? When you say the benefits are small? Let’s not beat around the bush here. What exactly are you trying to say?
MARION: We look at it in various ways. For example, we look at life years gained by the actual screening every year or every other year. And the life years gained for that group is not very large. There are some life years gained. But it’s not very large.
GUPTA: You’re a nurse and…
MARION: And I know…
GUPTA: I don’t want to, you know…
MARION: I am.
GUPTA: … dig ourselves into a whole [sic] here. You’re a nurse, you’re in a profession of healing and compassion.
Are you comfortable with what you’re saying right now? Because what you’re saying, what I’m hearing you say is that you’re saying some lives just aren’t worth it. We — that’s why we’re changing these screening recommendations. And that is an incredibly frightening thing to hear from someone like yourself.
Is that what you’re saying?
MARION: No, I’m not saying that some lives are worth it. I do not say that. But as you know, as a physician, there are many screening tests that could save lives but could create many other issues that we made decisions about.
GUPTA: So, really, the harm that you’re saying to women, the harm that you cite is that it could cause unnecessary anxiety and worry in women who get these mammograms, for example, if they have a false positive? Do you think that it would cause anxiety in women if they are told that look, 90 percent — up to 90 percent of women who develop breast cancer never had a risk factor and now you’re not sure if you have that breast cancer because you didn’t get the test? Don’t you think that causes anxiety as well?
MARION: Yes, we know that the biggest risk factor is age. And that’s clear. And so the other — and we know other risk factors and we know that many do not have known risk factors if you don’t include age.
Dude, Gupta! Remind us never to debate you on camera. You’ve got a stronger tongue than a David E. Kelley character.
But thank you for pressing back hard against this recommendation–which could heavily influence caregivers, insurance companies, and those who are penning policy. We’re not jumping to conclusions, but it feels awfully fishy that a government agency seems to suddenly care about our mental health, and eerily coincidental that fewer mammograms and biopsies would ultimately cost medical insurance companies less dollars (we guess dead patients cost less, too). The way we see it, this recommendation boils down to less women detecting that they are sick, and that is simply unacceptable.
Frankly, we don’t care if our sisters, moms and friends only potentially gain “some” life years by screening frequently for breast cancer. We’ll take a day or a week or a month with our ladies over a bunch of computer data, so there you go. Dr. Gupta, please call us up before your next battle on this issue–we’ll be there with brass knuckles on.
Filed under: Breast Cancer, Breast Cancer Awareness, Breast Exams, CNN, Controversy, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Early Detection, Health Care Reform, Lucy Marion R.N., Mammograms, Medical Insurance Companies, Recommendations, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force
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