Sebelius: U.S. policy on mammo screening unchanged

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HHS Secretary and former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
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The U.S. government policy regarding mammography screening “remains unchanged,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius Wednesday, as she moved to clear up the “confusion” caused by the release of new screening recommendations earlier this week by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Sebelius was responding to that panel’s recommendation that most women shouldn't undergo mammograms until they reach the age of 50 and should get the screening test once every two years after that point.

“There is no question that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations have caused a great deal of confusion and worry among women and their families across this country,” Sebelius said. “The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who make recommendations. They do not set federal policy and they don’t determine what services are covered by the federal government."

Sebelius said that while the task force has presented new evidence on screening that should be considered, the recommendations have no impact on government policy.

“Indeed, I would be very surprised if any private insurance company changed its mammography coverage decisions as a result of this action,” she said.

She added that more research and scientific innovation is needed to help women prevent, detect and fight breast cancer, adding that mammograms have been, and continue to be, important life-saving tools in the fight against breast cancer. Women should “keep doing what you have been doing for years," she said. "Talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions and make the decision that is right for you.”