My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

The Government and Breast Cancer

with 2 comments

     Confusion and uproar are the order of the day in regard to breast cancer screeing.  The American Cancer Society says that women should get regular mammograms starting at age 40.  A panel called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force put out a recommendation that women stop getting mammograms that early, saying that they do not have to start until age 50.  After huge outcries from a concerned public, Kathy Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, says that women should continue to get the test in their forties, and assures the public that women on government assistance will still be able to have mammograms before age 50.

     It’s her task force, for goodness’ sake.  Either she backs their findings, or the whole exercise was one big waste of time and taxpayer money.  Or is this how we “create” jobs now–by commissioning a panel to make recommendations that are harmful and that end up being ignored?

     The fundamental question, though, is why the government should determine when and how often medical tests should be performed.  Shouldn’t doctors and patients make that decision?  How does a government know if a woman, a particular woman, should have a mammogram at age 40 or age 45 or age 50?  It should be based on the woman’s family history, personal history, and level of risk acceptance.  Doctors should help a woman make that determination based on what they were taught in medical school and what the medical journals tell them, based on scientific research.  The woman should consider how much risk she is or is not willing to take, and how much she is willing to spend on preventative care.

     My sister died of breast cancer before age 40.  One of her best friends seems to have beaten it–before age 40.  She and other cancer survivors are outraged at the new recommendations.  If women get breast cancer even before age 40, then it does not seem that 40 is too young an age to start checking for it.

     Could it be that the panel wants to help the government save money?  All those women getting mammograms at Uncle Sam’s expense are sure costing a lot.  Maybe some of them will go ahead and die of breast cancer before age 50, and that will save even more money, since those women will not be getting mammograms after they are dead.

     That’s why the government should not be involved in breast cancer or any other medical problem.  You should not treat people as statistics.  You should not promise free, universal health care and then do cost-benefit analyses to determine who gets tests and who doesn’t and to determine ways to save money by letting people get deadly illnesses. 

     Women die of breast cancer.  The government should not be the entity responsible either for preventing or contributing to their deaths.  It’s ultimately up to each woman, in consultation with her doctor, to make those decisions.


Written by ambrosianideas

November 18, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Miscellaneous

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. I think doctors need information, they only know the cases they encounter. They can get it from journals and studies, presumably a task force can take into account a lot of diverse information and make a finding. What I’d do if I were a doctor is go through their methodology (why they reach this conclusion and what data they used) and determine if it were to make sense for me. Of course, if the government is footing the bill, it can decide what mammograms it wants to pay for in any event.

    Scott Erb

    November 19, 2009 at 4:52 pm

  2. Mammograms for women age 40 is around 1 life saving find for every 1900 mammograms. I agree that this may not be the best number. But women’s #1 health concern is breast cancer. I believe that the emotional side is also important as well. The well being of knowing that your mammogram was normal can also be quite helpful. The risks are present and may or may not deture someone from getting a mammogram. I am surprised at fact that a task force could cause such a stir….maybe I shouldn’t be!!!

    InterActive Health

    November 24, 2009 at 5:04 pm

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