Commentary: New guidelines for mammograms are confusing

Reaction has been loud and swift to new recommendations regarding mammograms and breast self-exams, which came from a government-sponsored group that provides guidance to doctors, insurance companies and policymakers.

Guidelines from the U.S Preventive Services Task Force say that beginning in their 50s -- instead of at 40 -- women should get mammograms every other year, and shouldn't bother with breast self-exams.

But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Wednesday said women should continue getting regular mammograms starting at age 40. The task force does "not set federal policy and they don't determine what services are covered by the federal government," Sebelius said.

The American Cancer Society also continues to recommend annual screening using mammography and clinical breast examination for all women beginning at age 40.

Otis W. Brawley, M.D., chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society said, "As someone who has long been a critic of those overstating the benefits of screening, I use these words advisedly: This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over, be she a patient, a stranger, or a family member."

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fresno Bee.