Decrease in mammograms since new guidelines

February 22, 2010 6:18:30 PM PST
Many doctors are worried that a growing number of women are choosing not to have mammograms -- a consequence they were afraid of after a government screening recommendation came out three months ago.

Heather Morris just turned 40 and got her first mammogram. She got the exam despite a recent federal government task force recommendation that women wait until age 50 for the screening.

"I'm still a little bit confused, although my health care provider will do it annually," she said.

The debate about when and how often women should have mammograms was part of a discussion Monday in San Francisco sponsored by the Avon Foundation for Women.

The foundation released the results of a nationwide survey it conducted on mammography.

  • 24 percent of the providers it surveyed report a decrease in the number of women under age 50 being screened or seeking appointments
  • Respondents from one out of every four states report reductions or elimination of services in early detection programs

At Good Samaritan Hospital Breast Care Center there was a 30 percent decrease this January over January 2009 in the number of women getting mammograms.

"We've seen a drop this year over last year and quite honestly, I'm not sure if it's the task force recommendation or the economy," center Director Tricia Baker said.

More people out of work and fewer people with health insurance could be impacting the numbers. ABC7 checked with several Bay Area medical providers who say despite budget cuts and the task force recommendation, their policies to provide uninsured women with mammograms have not changed.

"We have decided to continue to do mammogram screenings for all women 40 and older; the American Cancer Society also recommends that and so we will continue to do that," Dr. Lily Boris of Santa Clara Family Health Plan said.