A Woman Ain't Worth The Price

So the blogosphere has been alight with mockery of the news that the US Preventive Services Task Force is now saying women needn't bother with mammography until age 50.

The argument being advanced isn't false --it's one I have noted here before as the problem with prevention-based medicine: screening everyone for everything routinely sounds like it would save money (because it avoids expensive cures for advanced disease), but it doesn't, because of the problem of false positives (which require more and more expensive tests to rule out the initial diagnosis. Not a problem in a small pool of people; exorbitant in a large pool).

The recommendation is highly revealing, however , and I'll just collect here some things others have noticed. As for example: no health care bill has even passed, and already the entire dynamic of the control panels is toward cost savings, not health.
“We’re not saying women shouldn’t get screened. Screening does saves lives,” said Diana B. Petitti, vice chairman of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which released the recommendations Monday in a paper being published in Tuesday’s Annals of Internal Medicine.
We're just saying we won't pay for it with the insurance we make you buy.

The task force that made this decision --and will be deciding the standard of care for all diseases and conditions if the health care bill passes in anything like its current iterations-- includes no radiologists or oncologists. In fact they seem to all be nurses, family practitioners and hospital administrators.

I'm sure they're all wonderful people and great at their jobs, but I find that ominous. I have a family member who just experienced nothing short of a medical miracle thanks to specialists who recommended a course of treatment that other doctors either had never heard of or scoffed at. Not sure said member (now healthy) would still be with us had the treatment required the authorization of non-specialists.

Just six months ago, this same panel was "alarmed" at a decline in the number of women in their 40s receiving annual mammograms.

I am no medical expert and to be honest (though I will say the half dozen women I've known with breast cancer were all in their 40s), I am tired of the pink ribbons that now festoon every single product in the grocery store. I have long been ready for a little less breast cancer awareness and don't have reason to believe the original recommendation: screenings for everyone, beginning at 35! was any less politically motivated than the don't bother! now.

What I'm really tired of is the politicization of medicine at the precise moment we claim to be all "scientific" and "objective."

Then again, who the hell cares? It's only women.