USPSTF Releasing Mammogram Guidelines

January 12, 2016

Published 1/12/16 by Marisa Vertrees

Last October, the United States Preventive Services Task Force released a draft recommendation that updated its guidelines for mammograms, giving a “C” rating to regular mammograms for women between ages 40 and 50, and a “B” to biennial mammograms for ages 50-74.  Private insurers are required to cover, with no co-pay, preventive services receiving an “A” or “B” rating by the USPSTF, but not those with a rating of “C” or lower.  Many organizations, including professional societies, women’s health and breast cancer groups and the Prevent Cancer Foundation, continued to recommend annual mammograms for any woman 40 or older.

Because of the confusion arising from so many competing guidelines and the clear lack of scientific consensus, we asked you to join in our campaign to place a two year moratorium on the new guidelines, meaning that private insurers would be required to continue to pay for lifesaving screenings for women 40 and older.  And you stepped up!  It was one of the Foundation’s most successful campaigns, and legislation protecting access to mammograms was passed in the end-of-year budget deal.

Today, however, it was reported that despite the outcry against the revised guidelines, and the recent legislation, the USPSTF is releasing their final guidelines, keeping the “C” rating for annual mammograms for women between 40 and 50 years of age.

While we are disappointed in the USPSTF, we are relieved that the recent legislation passed.  Without it, up to 22 million women might have been forced to pay out of pocket for mammograms or worse, decided to go without.  Early detection for breast cancer is critical.  When breast cancer is detected and treated early, before it spreads, the five-year survival rate is 99%.

The legislation that put a hold on the USPSTF guidelines stands, even with the guidelines being finalized.  We continue to disagree with these guidelines, however, and think that they only contribute to greater confusion about when and how often women can get screened.  The Foundation will continue to work to protect access to annual mammography at age 40 with no barriers or cost-sharing.  You can view the Foundation’s full statement here.

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