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Who Is On The Panel That Came Up With New Mammography Recommendations?

12:52 AM, Nov 19, 2009   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA)--As Chief of Breast Imaging for Sibley Memorial Hospital's Sullivan Center for Breast Health, Dr. Rebecca Zurrbier vehemently disagrees with the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force suggestion that many women in their forties can skip screening mammograms.

As a guest Wednesday of the Diane Rehm Show on WAMU 88.5 radio, Zurrbier says she was even more taken aback when one of the lead researchers, Dr. Diana Petitti, could not name one breast cancer treatment specialist on the task force panel.

"This is a group," Petitti explained on the Diane Rehm Show, "That has wide expertise on prevention and the uses of evidence to make prevention related recommendations."

9NEWS NOW reviewed the backgrounds of the task force, which is made up of doctors, nurses and scientists with experience in a variety of fields including preventative medicine and women's health.  Some sit on cancer boards. But there is no one who treats breast cancer clinically, and there are three physicians on the task force with ties to insurance companies and HMO's.

"It begs the question," says Zurrbier, "Who really are the authorities and who is really making medical decisions that are patient based and not finance based?"

"These recommendations have nothing to do with any kind of analysis that addressed cost effectiveness.  Cost effectiveness was not a part of the discussion.  Cost was not uttered in the room," says Dr. Petitti.

Petitti also says the task force certainly doesn't want to influence insurance coverage of mammograms. 

On the Diane Rehm Show Wednesday, Petitti said, "I can say that I am personally, and I think the members of the task force, are quite concerned about the way these recommendations are being misinterpreted and misrepresented. And certainly if the consequence were to deny women of any age a mammogram that they decided they wanted after weighing the risks and benefits it would be a negative.  Again, it would be an unintended consequence."

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Written by Anita Brikman
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com