PORTLAND, Oregon — Breast Friends, which has helped thousands of woman deal with the emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis, is traveling to Capitol Hill this week to meet with Congressional Representatives to urge a delay in new draft breast cancer screening recommendations that would make it more expensive for many women 40-49 to get routine mammograms.
On April 20, 2015, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a draft of its new recommendations for breast cancer screening. If the guidelines are finalized as drafted, commercial health plans will no longer be required to cover mammograms without cost-sharing for women between the ages of 40 and 49.
The draft recommendations downgrade screening mammography in women ages 40-49 to a “C,” making it an individual decision to be made between a provider and the patient. Federal law requires most commercial health plans to cover preventive services with an A or B rating from the USPSTF, without cost- sharing by the patient.
“Early detection is essential in the fight against breast cancer,” said Becky Olson, who cofounded Breast Friends with Sharon Henifin. “Under these proposed changes, women would experience a considerable cost burden for mammography, and many may be unable to afford screening. It is critical that women are screened annually without additional cost starting at age 40. If they wait until they are 50 or older for their routine mammograms, many cancers will be much further along and more difficult to treat.”
The trip to Washington, D.C., is part of an effort sponsored by the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC), which has marshaled nearly 30 breast cancer experts and survivors from 15 states expressing opposition to the Task Force’s recommendations. In addition to Breast Friends and NCBC, American Cancer Society, ACOG, ACR/SBI, Komen, and Prevent Cancer Foundation have voiced opposition to the draft recommendations.
“We are urging Congress to place a two-year moratorium on finalizing these draft breast cancer screening recommendations until our concerns have been addressed,” Henifin said.
Breast Friends is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for female cancer patients, and their family and friends. Survivors Sharon Henifin and Becky Olson started Breast Friends in 2000 after discovering that there wasn’t a support network for women dealing with cancer.
Headquartered in Tigard, Oregon, Breast Friends has about 100 local volunteers. In 2014, the Oregon office helped over 400 newly diagnosed patients. Breast Friends also has chapters in Florida and Pennsylvania. For more information visit www.breastfriends.org, or contact Becky or Sharon at 503-598-8048.