Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cancer survivors, doctors in Somerville blast fed's mammogram recommendation

SOMERVILLE -- Cancer survivors and doctors in Somerville today blasted last week’s federal recommendation that women not get mammograms before age 50, saying the panel that made the recommendation were putting numbers before people’s lives.

Last week the federally-appointed U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended that women under age 50 should not receive mammograms, contending the risks involved with the procedure outweigh benefits before that time.

The recommendations have generated controversy since they were made, and U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-7th Dist.), cancer survivors and doctors joined the chorus of critics today.

“None of the people that wrote that report have ever taken care of a patient,” said Dr. Angela Landfranchi, chair of the Breast Cancer Institute at the Steeplechase Cancer Center at Somerset Medical Center. “They made a calculation that one life saved out of 1,900 isn’t worth it.”

Radiologist Dr. Gail Eliot, left, looks at a digital mammogram while talking to transcriber Pat Giannini at Chilton Memorial Hospital's Comprehensive Breast Center.

The task force report stated that one out of every approximately 1,900 women under 50 who receive a mammogram learn they have cancer, pre-cancerous growth or receive a false positive test. The report said anxiety caused by a large number of false positive tests and more invasive treatments that often follow, such as biopsies, outweigh the rewards of getting mammograms as a younger woman.

Whitehouse Station resident Kathy Petrozelli, 49, was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer last year.

“I’d hate to think what might have happened if I hadn’t gotten a routine mammogram at 48 and instead had waited until I was 50,” Petrozelli said.

Deborah Belfatto, executive director and co-founder of breast cancer awareness group Susan G. Komen for the Cure, said if the recommendations issued last week were to become conventional wisdom “all the work Komen for the Cure has done would go up in smoke.”

Lance, whose mother died of breast cancer, said he hopes Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will reject the recommendations because “a tremendous hole is left in any family who loses a member to breast cancer.”

Read more:http://www.nj.com/news/local/index.ssf/2009/11/cancer_survivors_doctors_in_so.html

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