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November 20th, 2009
01:15 PM ET

Mammogram Confusion: Your Questions Answered, 9am ET

Blogs, Facebook, Twitter or just general conversation - the hot topic is the new mammogram recommendations announced earlier this week. According to a new task force report, most women should start mammograms at age 50 rather than 40 as previously recommended. Some women are outraged and others are just plain confused.

This morning at 9 ET in the CNN Newsroom, we will devote a half-hour to health care and speak live with a doctor who will answer your questions as we try to get to the bottom of this mammogram controversy. If you have a question you'd like the doctor to address, you can post it here.

soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. alice27

    I believe this Forum put out these guidelines when pushed by the insurance companies. If followed they will save money now and when national health insurance is law. The timing is perfect for them because it will appear to be pushed by the government for the national health plan. However, people think the government is stupidl but they are not that stupid!

    November 20, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  2. Lucky

    Breast and cervical cancer runs in my family. My grandmother and 2 aunts have all had double mastectomies in their 40s, my mother had fast growing cervical cancer and a radical hysterectomy in her 40s. I had an abnormal pap smear at 20. I have pap smears every 6 months and had my first mammogram at 28 (this year). I am one of the very confused because does this recommendation mean that my dr. is now going to tell me that my pap is not neccesary every 6 months? Am I going to be denied access to a mammogram due to my age? I thought the point of breast cancer awareness was Early Detection and I am very disappointed that women are being discouraged from check ups that could save their life. Both of my aunts found lumps with breast self-exams and I WILL NOT stop monitoring myself knowing that I am at an extremely high risk. I do not have an M.D. after my name, but living through the deaths of my 2 aunts, the pain of my mother and grandmother, the others I have seen lose their lives is enough for me to rally for early detection. I urge women to continue early mammograms and yearly pap smears, do a monthly breast self exam and do not let health care politics keep you from saving your own life. Check with your Dr. and find out their opinion on early detection and their recommended schedule for these exams. Find out your insurance company's guidelines for these exams and USE THEM. If your Dr. or insurance company doesnt feel the same as you seek a second opinion! I may not be a Dr. but I know my history and body enough to know that waiting until 50 for a mammogram could mean certain death for me. EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES!

    November 21, 2009 at 7:04 am |
  3. Patti

    I am a breast cancer survivor, I found the lump by doing self examination, I was 43.

    November 21, 2009 at 7:29 am |
  4. sharwon

    this is rediculous why? seriously why? i watched that there was a few women who came on your show an had found a lump in their breast way earlier than 50 right around the age of 40 even a woman i read about was 39 when she found out about her having breast cancer. Instead of everyone protesting about the california university 32% raise on tuition everyone should be protesting about this. i think all the women who are breast cancer survivers should protest or raise hell about this. cause i know i would. this makes me not even want to even be around doctors anymore.

    November 21, 2009 at 7:32 am |
  5. sharwon

    this is for alice27 you say that the government is not that stupid everything going on with them is a conspiracy thats all everything is. how about you go to google an look at all the conspiracys . you will be shocked on what you find out. then you get back to me an let me know what you think about the government.

    November 21, 2009 at 7:35 am |
  6. Dr.Allan Lieberman

    Why is no one talking about the use of breast thermography whiich requires no compression or radiation and which is over 90% sensitive and specific? The greatest death from breast cancer occurs in the 40-50 year period. AS the time between first cell change till death is 15 years you must start screening at 25. Thermography can see through the densest breast . It is the safest and most cost effective procedure.

    November 21, 2009 at 7:37 am |
  7. Lorraine

    I'm very confused about the new recommendations. Specially because the some people say to follow the new guidelines some say we shouldn't. What we really need to do?

    November 21, 2009 at 7:39 am |
  8. Bernadette Loesch

    Dear Betty, My questions are three. One; which administration appointed the 'federal' panel who came out with the latest guidelines? Two; why doesn't the 'panel' include more Ob/Gyn's and Oncologists and Breast Specialists? I am suspect to say the very least that these Specialists are NOT on the panel. And, finally, how many ob/gyn's and oncologists and breast specialists were consulted before releasing these very suspect findings??????

    November 21, 2009 at 7:42 am |
  9. Debbie

    RE: Mammogram Recently at 46 with no risk factors –
    I believe in preventive medicine and do not have family hx, take excellent care of myself; however, I was called back this month to redo my mammogram. Fortunately, no changes detected when compared. Dr. Sanjay Gupta said 75-95% no family history or identifiable risk factors. How can a task force take back their research and recommendation- is this due to saving money? Certainly not about saving lives. I think it is hippocritical to use research to make policy and then to retract it. What do you think?

    unless at risk – can you share what those risk factors would be?

    November 21, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  10. Mary

    Okay, it (only) saves 1 out of 1,900 women; the average cost of the test is $125.00 (according to Dr. Gupta). That is an approximate total of $237,500.00 for the 1,900 test. How much would it cost for the treatment of the one woman whose cancer was not caught as early as it might have been, utilizing self examines and mammogram testing? Other than the ultimate price.

    November 21, 2009 at 7:54 am |
  11. Maryann

    Mammograms have many inherent problems. They have been the best screening tool until now. It' is time to move on to MRI screening ,which is by far a better screening method.
    My question is wouldn't MRI screening be more cost effective in the long term given the fact that you would do away with the many false positives and needless biopsies.

    November 21, 2009 at 8:00 am |
  12. Judith Richard

    Good Moring,
    Have been listening to the recent uproar on the new mammogram recommendations and have a few questions in an attempt to gain some basic knowledge in order to form my own opinion on this issue.

    Who is on the panel ?(name names please)

    How was the panel formed?

    How long has the panel been addressing healh issues (am assuing that this is their main task)?

    What industry connections do they have? (medical/insurance/etc)

    How long have they been looking at the mammogram data?

    What other recommendations have they made in the past (what other health issues have they addressed) ? And, what changes have come about as a result?


    November 21, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  13. Lori M

    This is very confusing to me. I'm 47 and have faithfully had yearly mammograms since I was 40. I've been told all my life that this is what you're supposed to do, and now, they're changing the rules?
    What the heck??

    November 21, 2009 at 8:30 am |
  14. Peggy from New Lenox, IL

    Thermography lets the doctor see "hot spots" that may be cancerous. It also "sees" all of the breast instead of the partial picture taken by a mammogram. What is the reliability of thermograms?

    November 21, 2009 at 8:31 am |
  15. John

    How many cancers are CAUSED by excessive numbers of mammograms and how many deaths are there from unnecessary surgery related to false positives due to mammography?

    November 21, 2009 at 8:31 am |
  16. Arlene

    I have a qustion for the doctor. I am 29F and my Dad had breast cancer about 15 years ago. He was treated with a double mascatemomy and is cancer free. Does this put me at a higher risk for breast cancer? When should I begin mamagrams? Thank you.

    November 21, 2009 at 8:32 am |
  17. Joan C.

    Despite the fact that the discussion of mammogram protocol is not a new one, I am surprised and concerned that ONLY mammograms are being discussed and not other means of detection.
    In my recent situation mammograms raised a question though very incomplete; a sonargram following was less informative still and not until an MRI were two lesions clearly identified.
    So shouldn't the diagnosis protocol, in fact, include all testing modalities to lead to absolute answers?

    November 21, 2009 at 8:33 am |
  18. Rebecca

    Hi Betty,
    My mother was diagnosed at 26 and died at 31 from breast cancer. I am 32 and have had a mammogram every few years since I was 19. I have considered genetic testing but it is expensive and of course insurance does not cover it. My question is this, what is the best course of action for someone with my family history?

    Thank you,
    Rebecca in Columbus, Ohio

    November 21, 2009 at 8:33 am |
  19. Jodie

    I feel especially confused and concerned, as a doctor recommended yearly mammograms for me a couple years ago after finding a benign cyst. However I am now only 37! Do I really need that much monitoring even in my 30s and on? They must see something "suspicious," but now I just live in anxiety about future findings while feeling worried about exposure to that much mammography.

    November 21, 2009 at 8:34 am |
  20. David Black

    Hi Betty- There is another compelling reason women should not get mammograms at any age.

    It has been proven in hundreds of studies that radiation causes cancer. Every mammogram exposes a woman to over one rad (1,000 millarads) of radiation. That is the equivalent of 30-40 chest x-rays.

    Keep in mind that radiation is cumulative- once your body is exposed it, is very difficult, if not impossible to get out of the body.

    I'm convinced that 90% of breast cancer is due to the cumulative amount of radiation that women are exposed to from yearly mammograms. If a woman starts at forty, by the time she is sixty, she has been exposed to 20-25 rads of radiation from mammograms!

    Thermography is a much better alternative. No radiation or side effects and it can detect a tumor ten times smaller than a mammo-gram. Please help spread the word... Thanks- David Black-Miami

    November 21, 2009 at 8:39 am |
  21. Judy Pedgrift

    Yesterday in the NYTimes editorial they stated that these guidelines would cut the risks of mammograms in half. I think most women are unaware that there are risks. Please ask the expert to explain the risks of exposing the beasts to radiation every year.

    November 21, 2009 at 8:51 am |
  22. Martha

    Q: What amount of Electromagnetic Fields would cause a woman to develop breast cancer?

    Q: How much does most women intake daily?

    Q: In knowing or giving concern to the above information, when do you recommend for women to start screening for breast cancer?

    November 21, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  23. Sharon

    Please, please tell women that while mammograms have lots of false positives it can miss (13%!?) of cancer in dense breast tissue and self exam is IMPORTANT. Mammograms were started in my early forties because of dense breast tissue and cysts -ironic considering how flat chested I was before having children. At 47 I found a cyst/lump that didn't leave after my period, after an ultrasound, yet another mammogram proved clear and needle biopsy showed hyperplasy but not cancer, after 4 months search, a lumpectomy discovered a 2 cmm tumour. I found this during self exam, my GP LISTENED and we didn't stop even when the tests can back negative. There was no family history, I don't drink (much), don't smoke, am not over weight, do exercise. Your health is literally in your hands.

    November 21, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  24. Kelley

    My first comment is that Insurance companies, if everyone would read the "contract", already dictates what medical procedures, medications and doctors they can see. The insurance companies are raising unfounded fears in the public concerning the Fed Gov plans for universal health care. The insurance companies have been doing the same thing for YEARS.
    The Mammogram controversy is just more of the same thing. They are trying to tell us what we can and can not do and when. I am 42 years old, I do not have health care at this time due to going back to school full time. I have not had a mammogram as of yet and feel that it should be my choice as to when I get one. I feel as a woman it is very important that we have control of our health and this is where the insurance companies are controlling our health again.
    Being proactive in our health will help reduce the costs in the long run. If the mammogram changes go through what we will find is more women having breast cancer that has grown to the point that recovery will not be possible. Many more women will be dying of breast cancer than ever before. We as a nation must not relax on this issue. Men should be very concerned because this is their wife, the mother of their children. If this goes through, many children will be growing up without their mother. The father will be left alone to raise the children alone. Everyone should stand up and be heard!

    November 21, 2009 at 8:59 am |
  25. Marianne Mattock

    I was 34 young years old when I found my lump. My comment is that women need to be true to themselves and put themselves first. We know what is right for us and that means continuing to do self exams, get mamograms, sonograms and pap tests on a yearly basis. Screw the recommendation committee and the insurance companies!

    November 21, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  26. E A Harris

    Fyi – The gov't cant pass a law forbidding you to touch your own body, nor is anyone to ban diagnostic testing. The problem- routine frequency and how will the gov't plan and individual insurers respond to the task force recommendations. As with any other medical condition people should talk with their physicians when they become concerned. Many insurance plans don't make a distinction between currently between preventative and diagnostic testing. This is not a big deal.

    November 21, 2009 at 9:05 am |
  27. John T. O'Neill

    Is this a move to reduce the number of mammograms in the country in preparing us for less health care?

    November 21, 2009 at 9:06 am |
  28. Joyce Speer

    For years, women have been told that mammograms should be started at 40. I had a relative die of breast cancer and I would have completed a mammogram at 40; but, now what? It appears this is another insurance ploy – maybe if less women get screened early, they won't have to pay for their sickness later (as they would have died already). Shame on the U.S. government for not listening to the people and listening to the pleas of lobbyists and wealthy contributors with hidden agendas. This should be a choice, and insurance and companies should have to pay to have members and employees screened.

    November 21, 2009 at 9:09 am |
  29. Tamara

    I am a 42 year old woman who has been concerned about getting mammograms so early because of the accumulation of radiation over the years. I have chosen to use thermography for early detection. Why is no one talking about thermography as a viable option with out radiation?

    November 21, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  30. Patricia Egger

    Hello Betty,

    I would like to state that when I heard what that panel was recommending for women, I was astounded, because I have been proactive in my overall health since I was in my 20's. I have fibrocystic disease, and a doctor recommended when I was 38 that I get mammograms every year. I have done so, and never missed my January date with "the machine". My promptness kept me from dying. I am 66 and, 4 years ago I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinma (smaller than 2 cm) as a result of my yearly checkup. If I had gone two years as is being recommended by the panel, I might be dead, or have gone thru more devastating treatments for a larger cancer. As it is, I only had a lumpectomy, and 30 radiation treatments. Please women, don't listen to that panel. Cancer strikes and sometimes fast. I am also a survivor of papillary thyroid cancer, and was proactive about that situation which save my life ten years ago. If I had a false positive, I wouldn't care, because I would know that nothing is wrong after it was over, and I could go on until the next check up without fear of dying.

    November 21, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  31. Donna Joy Pearson

    I have am in a breast cancer battle (since Dec 2006). I had a yearly mammogram (have since I was 40) in June 2006 which proved clear. In November I found a lump and immediately cancer was diagnosed. If cancer can APPEAR in a matter of 5 months; this decision is CRAZY! I had a 14 month remission with my first diagnosis and BECAUSE of close monitoring it was discovered the cancer had metasticized in Oct and is now in my bones. I'm concerned that my 2 daughters could be at high risk and certainly don't want them to go until age 50 for mammograms. Will they be able to get it done!

    November 21, 2009 at 9:16 am |
  32. Karen

    Has Michelle Obama addressed this issue or indicated her position on mammograms?

    November 21, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  33. Kelley

    I am 42 and I do self breast examination. I have not had my mammogram yet. Can I trust that self exam is enough?

    November 21, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  34. Jennifer

    I just cant believe that insurance companies want to save money by putting our health in darger.. I think that age 40 is the perfect time to get it done and stop letting insurances companies gambling with our health...

    November 21, 2009 at 9:19 am |
  35. Tamara

    Betty –

    I just watched your segment on breast cancer screening and am still discouraged that no one is taking a serious look at the connection between radiation accumulation and beginning mammograms early. It seems that keeps getting dismissed as not a concern despite research to the contrary. Thermography is also being portrayed as a fringe alternative with very little research. I would love to hear someone talk more in-depth about both topics.

    November 21, 2009 at 9:24 am |
  36. Frank

    You are again on the health care topic as if this were quantum physics and hence a difficult topic to understand. Moreover, when private insurance companies do ration care under the basic general assumption that the cost is to high and the benefit not so obvious, this seems to be acceptable or legitimate under the basic rule that there are enough private companies to choose from and therefore one can move on to another provider. I doubt that all the premises being promulgated are by either sides are valid, but yet the issue goes on raging. I believe that down deep everyone understands this, but inexplicably the debate goes on for ever as if the issue is more important than the outcome. The debate would be more even, if every private corporation and its leaders were under close scrutiny as are politicians. It would be interesting to find out how trustworthy they would become and if the population in general would pay them as much respect. Do people really care about this topic anymore, given that we know that one side will say one thing and the other side will reply with the opposite, this will be played up for Doctor Gupta to come on the air with a special investigative report. By the wa, in case you wonder, I have tuned off TV set.

    November 21, 2009 at 9:33 am |
  37. Judy Pedgrift

    The doctor that was on this show had a dog in this fight. I am always amazed how gullible the public is concerning the profit motives of the medical industrial complex and in this case the "pink" industry.
    From what I have read these recommendations go back a very long time (to the 70's), but the CONGRESS did the industry's bidding and over road the recommendations to provide this "pink" industry it's cash flow.
    The medical industrial complex is PROFIT DRIVEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Therefore people must think for themselves. Wouldn't that be remarkable?

    November 21, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  38. Tina Norman

    It is obvious there was no oncologist on the government task force. Both my mother and older sister got breast cancer and had mastectomies post-menopausal both are fine now. However waiting to start mammograms until the age of 40 is not an option for both me and my other sister. We started getting mammograms in our 20's. We also learned from our genetic counselor and oncologist that women that get breast cancer in their mid 20's to 30's can be very aggressive if not caught early. Another point that the task force is wrong on, that women in their 20's don't to get mammograms.
    And as for the not having to get pap smears for Cervical cancer screenings every 2 years is not necessary because Cervical cancer is slow growing is unacceptable. How is having a slow growing cancer inside your body OK?

    November 21, 2009 at 10:38 am |
  39. Mike

    Got a question for the journalists: Have you read the report (or had one of your fact checkers read it)? I hear some contradictory information in your coverage that would seem to be simple to, I don't know, verify. Do you think its possible that as a news media outlet you might actually present some analysis of the issue, and provide a view of whether people are just going off the deep end versus attending to the significance of the recommendations contained in the report.
    If you just want reaction, you could look at comment on
    that was made on Nov. 20, 2009
    I would prefer if the news outlets tried a little harder to get to the relevant information than to apprise me about how vigoriously people are reacting to the 'news' and not the issue.

    November 21, 2009 at 11:44 am |