Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Government Settles Issue of Mammograms

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Government Settles Issue of Mammograms

Article excerpt

Seeking to end widespread confusion, the government recommended on Thursday regular mammograms for women in their 40s as a way to save lives. It also urged women at higher risk of breast cancer to seek more customized care.

For women in their 40s who are at average risk, "it is prudent to have mammograms every one to two years," said Dr. Barbara Rimer, who heads the presidentially appointed National Cancer Advisory Board. But "mammography is not a panacea," Rimer cautioned in urging women also to understand the test's limitations.

Based on a recommendation by the advisory board, the National Cancer Institute reversed on Thursday its previous position, a decision it hopes will end one of the most fractious national debates in recent medical history. The board said women at higher risk of cancer should consult a doctor for more specific advice - because a few may need the tests even before 40, and to determine how frequently to be tested in their 40s. Now the government will issue consumer-friendly advice to help women check their cancer risks. President Bill Clinton, whose mother died of breast cancer, said the recommendations "give clear, concise guidance to women in our national fight against breast cancer." He announced a series of steps aimed at making mammograms more readily available to the targeted age group and said the federal government would launch a national breast cancer education program to get the latest information to the public and health care workers. Clinton said also that he would try to ensure that Medicare, Medicaid and federal employee health plans all follow the recommendation. Many insurers already cover mammography. Forty states require private insurers to pay, and the White House says Medicaid provides at least some coverage for poor women in all states. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., recently introduced legislation that would require every public and private insurance plan to cover yearly mammograms starting at 40. But government figures show that there still would be a gap because about 14 percent of these women are uninsured. …

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