Poll shows many women in their 40s unaware of revised mammography recommendations

A new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll shows – according to a HealthDay story:

• 66 percent of women in their 40s hadn’t even heard about the US Preventive Services Task Force’s revised recommendations from November 2009 raising questions about the tradeoffs involved in mammography for women in their 40s.

• About 11 percent of women said they believe mammograms should start in the 20s, even for women with no risk factors, while 29 percent believe mammograms should start in their 30s.

• 45 percent of the women polled said the task force pushed back the recommended age to 50 to reduce health-care costs and avoid administering unnecessary tests.

Dr. Diana Petitti, former vice chair of the task force and a professor of biomedical informatics at Arizona State University, told HealthDay:

“That is sobering. There is evidence of great misperceptions about what mammogram might yield for a woman who is young.”

The HealthDay story claims that “the complete findings of the poll are available at Harris Interactive” and that “full data on the poll and its methodology are also available at Harris Interactive.” But as we post this entry, we could not find any of this information on the Harris site at the links provided by HealthDay.

Dr. Len Lichtenfeld of the American Cancer Society writes on his blog:

“I am sitting here wringing my hands that so much has been made of some studies reported yesterday at a major radiology conference which suggest that the impact of the breast cancer screening guidelines released by the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) in November 2009 has either been good or bad on doctor and patient behavior.

…much is being made of these studies, as though they have some definitive answer to the questions they raised. In my opinion, they don’t.”

Many imbalanced, misinforming public messages fed this confusion – including many news stories that failed to challenge claims that cost-cutting and rationing were the Task Force’s motivations.

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Julie Huang

May 4, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Thank you for writing about this. I follow healthcare and this was not on my radar.