ASU doctor responds to backlash over mammogram guidelines

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TEMPE — No mandatory mammograms until 50. That stunning recommendation from a government panel has people here in Arizona baffled. Now an ASU doctor who helped write those new recommendations is speaking out.

She says it has all been blown way out of proportion, and says no one is telling women not to get mammograms; they just want women to think before they do.

The task force advises against the routine annual screening for women in their 40s, says women 50-74 should only get an exam every two years and questions the effectiveness of the breast self-exam.

There was an immediate backlash following the announcement of the new guidelines. In the Washington Post a Harvard radiology professor went as far as to call the members of the task force "idiots" and said the recommendations were "crazy … unethical really."

Charlie Thompson with the Susan G. Komen Foundation tells us his wife discovered she had breast cancer during a routine annual breast exam at the age of 43.

"If she had waited until 50, I don’t know what the results would have been,” he said. “But I do know that a mammogram saved my wife's life."

Dr. Diana Petitti is on the government task force that issued the guidelines.

"This is not a recommendation against screening women in their 40s,” she said.

She says there needs be a conversation between the woman and her doctor, and these guidelines are simply based on the pros and cons of the annual routine exams.

"Nine out of 10 positive screening mammograms on women in their 40s turn out to be negative -- they are falsely positive,” Petitti explained. “And that’s a choice that a woman can make. But the woman should make it knowing the trade-off between starting now or starting later."

She also says the claims that the task force was motivated by insurance companies or had some type of health care cost-cutting agenda are unfounded.

"That is not true; there was no discussion of cost,” she said.

Charlie Thompson says his organization will not be following the new guidelines.

"I want to make it very, very clear. We’re not budging off of 40 and we would suggest earlier if you have any at-risk,” he said.

The American Cancer Society also put out a statement saying they will continue to recommend annual screenings for women starting at the age of 40.

Although the task force did question the self-exam they did say you should see a doctor if you feel a lump during your daily activities.