American Elephants

A Step Backward in the Fight Against Breast Cancer. by The Elephant's Child
November 19, 2009, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Domestic Policy, Health Care, Law, Statism | Tags: , ,

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force tossed out long-time guidelines for breast cancer screening, and has caused a well-deserved uproar.  This should alert anyone paying attention as a preview of the coming political decisions about cost-control and medical treatment that are central to ObamaCare.

In 1983, the American Cancer Society began recommending that all women get screened beginning at age 40.  Since 1990 mortality from breast cancer has dropped by about 30 percent, after remaining constant for nearly 50 years.

This week, the task force, which includes neither oncologists nor radiologists, recommended that patients under 50 or over 75 without special risk factors no longer needed mammograms, and other screening techniques aren’t worth the money.

Did something change?  The panel decided to review the data with an eye to health care spending as a core concern.

ObamaCare is “predicated on the assumption that the federal government has the knowledge, capacity, and will to drive greater efficiency in American health care,” noted James Capretta.

The health care bills under consideration would hand over to the federal government nearly all power for organizing American health care.  And there is not a shred of evidence that Congress or the administration can handle these tasks well.  Indeed, there is abundant evidence that, in a crunch to control costs, politicians will do what they always do, which is impose across-the-board payment-rate cuts.  …It’s cuts for all providers, no matter how well or badly they treat patients.

The task force admitted that the benefits of early detection are the same for all women, but there are fewer cases of breast cancer in younger women.  So you get into statistical abstractions about how many screenings it takes to save one life, and how many false positives there are in each age group.

At the bureaucracy level, this sort of recommendation is usually adopted by Medicare when it makes coverage decisions for seniors, and Medicare’s decisions usually influence the private insurance market.

The American Cancer Society objects.  They acknowledged the limitations to mammography, but said the task force underestimates its lifesaving value.  You can’t treat a tumor until you find it, and mammography has led to finding tumors when they are smaller and more treatable.

Today, the task force from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force hastily said — We didn’t mean— we’re not telling your doctor what to do — not issuing rules.  So that is where it stands, with more to come.

What it does is provide an example of political decisions by bureaucrats looking at statistical abstractions and numbers and deciding what treatment your doctor may order for you and your loved ones.


3 Comments so far
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That’s not true, you know. What the task force said was that if you are a woman with no special risk factors for breast cancer (black, 1st degree relative with BC, early menstruation, no children, etc.), then the radiation received during mammograms would negate the benefits of mammograms prior to age 50.

However, if you are a woman with a high risk of breast cancer, then keep receiving mammograms earlier.


Comment by Personal Failure

I love it when folks tell me that a post is not true, but cannot be bothered to read the links in the post. In this case: the Wall Street Journal, The New Atlantis, The Washington Post, the Heritage Foundation and an article from the president of the American Cancer Society.

There is nothing in the bills before Congress that will reduce the cost of health care. The bills raise taxes on everyone, either directly or indirectly. When their big ideas don’t work, and they have been proven ineffective, they are left with only rationing with a view to costs. If it doesn’t pencil out according to the statistical abstractions, it will be cut. That is how it has worked in every other country with socialized medicine. If we do not learn from the examples of others, we will repeat their failures.


Comment by The Elephant's Child

[…] A Step Backward in the Fight Against Breast Cancer. « American … […]


Pingback by Breast Cancer Treatment in India at Jaslok Health Group under Professional Physicians « Mickmurp

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