August 3rd, 2011

CNN coverage of mammography issues

We recently had another big study dig into the question of the relationship between mammography and a reduction in deaths from breast cancer (answer in the most recent case: none detected -- countries which didn't screen until later experienced similar declines). If A, then B means, if a study comes out calling into question the value of mammography, then radiologists will come out and beat up USPSTF and some journalist will be stupid enough to play along.

This time, it's CNN (among others):

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/08/03/mammogram.women.react/

"Dr. Carol H. Lee, chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Communications Committee, said straightforward guidelines for screening mammography are necessary because leaving it up to a woman and her doctor is impractical. ... "Conflicting recommendations create a lot of confusion and angst," Lee said. "I just wish the conversation would stop. I'm not sure why there is so much attention paid to this particular topic. We know it works. Maybe because it involves a lot of money, a lot of health care costs in order to screen, but to my mind that's what health care dollars are for.""

Whether it works is a question which is persistently open, despite Dr. Lee's personal certainty. However, when the "chair of the American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Communications Committee" asks for the conversation to stop so the dollars can be delivered _to the people she represents_, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask if there might be some other motive in play.

People should quit beating up the underappreciated, intelligent, hard-working people as USPSTF. They are unbelievably un-political (if they had any political capacity anywhere in the whole organization, they would _never_ emit recommendations like the breast cancer ones) and they actually have some skills at analyzing messy masses of data and extracting useful information from them. They deserve our respect.

http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsbrca.htm