Wasserman Schultz seeks uniform mammogram guidelines
By Dan Sweeney
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, was 41 when she learned she had breast cancer. Now, eight years later, she is up in arms about medical guidelines that urge women to start getting mammograms as late as age 50.
So she and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C., are proposing a two-year moratorium be placed on implementing new age recommendations.
Currently, three separate medical groups have issued three separate standards for when women should start getting regular mammograms — at age 40, 45 and 50.
"Having three recommendations is completely insane," Wasserman Schultz said, pointing out that getting tested at 45 or 50 would have meant her own cancer could have become far more serious. It was her first mammogram at 40 that led her to begin examining herself after the mammogram found some small calcium deposits.
Her new proposal wants the three medical agencies to get together to put out one recommendation that all can agree on.
For Wasserman Schultz, as well as for the doctors who also spoke with her at a press conference at Baptist Medical Plaza in Pembroke Pines Monday, early is better.
"It really does make a huge difference to start screening at age 40," said Dr. Kate Lampen-Sachar, because it means catching breast cancer earlier in many patients.
The later recommendations have come out largely to guard against false positives, but the doctors dismissed that factor.
"While they address the anxiety of false positive results, what they don't address is the anxiety that's provoked by telling a woman she needs a mastectomy and chemotherapy," said Dr. Starr Mautner.
The press conference came during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and just ahead of Nov. 1, the next open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Under the ACA, mammograms are provided at no charge to women who have private health insurance.
"Simply being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition as it was before," Wasserman Schultz said.