Thursday, November 19, 2009

Secretary Pulls Cover Off the Work of Government Medical Panel

/PRNewswire/ -- U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is to be commended for publicly stating the government panel opposing mammograms is "an outside independent panel of doctors and scientists who ... do not set federal policy and ... don't determine what services are covered by the federal government."

ZERO - The Project to End Prostate Cancer has long criticized this panel, known as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), for being out of touch due to its steadfast opposition to recognize the need for prostate cancer early detection as an important men's health issue.

Now, this panel is criticizing the need for mammograms.

Based on its advisory opinions on both breast cancer and prostate cancer, USPSTF has created much confusion among millions of women and men who are now being told that preventive health measures should not be followed as a means to detect cancer.

"Prostate cancer is essentially 'the forgotten illness' as far as this outside government panel is concerned," said ZERO's CEO Quentin "Skip" Lockwood.

"We're pleased the Secretary is speaking up in defense of a woman's right to continue receiving mammograms to protect her health," he said.

"We now call upon the Secretary to address the importance of prostate cancer early detection for men as well, since USPSTF has turned its back on this issue."

Advocates for mammograms and prostate cancer testing also question the membership of the USPSTF panel due to the glaring omission of medical specialists relating to women's and men's health in the fields of radiology, oncology and urology, for example.

Earlier today, the American College of Radiology called upon the Secretary to ensure the panel included "experts from the areas on which they will be advising lawmakers and submit their recommendations for comment and review," as is done with Medicare guidelines.

Ironically, the supporting data used by USPSTF does indicate mammography screening reduces breast cancer deaths by 15 percent annually. For prostate cancer, USPSTF references an ongoing screening study where early detection (using the PSA test) has so far reduced deaths by 20 percent.

"It's obvious this government panel has some explaining to do and hopefully, with prodding from the Secretary, we will get some answers to explain their contradictory position," Lockwood said.

Similarities between breast and prostate cancer data in the U.S. are striking. Each is the most frequently diagnosed noncutaneous cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death for their gender. In 2009, new cases of each cancer were at about 194,000. One in six men is struck with prostate cancer annually; for breast cancer, it's one in eight women.

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