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Published Thursday, April 23, 2015

Washington, D.C., (April 20, 2015) – Upon the release of proposed breast screening guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), Linda Goler Blount, President and CEO, Black Women’s Health Imperative, and Ford Foundation Public Voices Fellow released the following statement:

“We are disheartened by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations for breast cancer screening. As the only national organization dedicated to the health and wellness of the nation's 20 million Black women and girls, we know these recommendations do a tremendous disservice to women everywhere, and, particularly, put the lives of Black women at risk.

These guidelines call for screening to begin at age 50 and could jeopardize the health of women in their thirties and forties, who despite a family history of breast cancer, may find that their insurance providers refuse to cover screening with no cost sharing. Medicaid might follow suit. If women can't afford the cost sharing of mammography they may not enroll in insurance. The literature is clear - women without health insurance are twice as likely to die from breast cancer due to late diagnosis. Black women are 45% less likely to have health insurance than white women and have a 40% greater mortality rate from breast cancer. Early screening is especially critical for Black women because we tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age; are more likely to be diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a more virulent form; and are more likely to die of breast cancer than White women.

The USPSTF issued no recommendations for or against tomosynthesis or 3D mammography. 3D technology greatly enhances Black women’s chances for early diagnosis, as 3D mammography produces better images of the breast, and more importantly, better imaging of dense breast tissue that often hides tumors not seen in traditional 2D mammography. Black women tend to have a larger volume of dense breast tissue, and cancerous tumors are potentially caught earlier with 3D mammography. Detection of invasive cancers increases by up to 40 percent; reducing unnecessary callbacks when compared to 2D mammography alone. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has stated that 3D mammography is a promising practice and the American Cancer Society includes it in its list of patient education materials. 3D mammography is currently a covered benefit under Medicare.

We know that the earlier breast cancer is detected, the better the outcome for the woman. And, Black and White women who receive the same treatment for the same stage breast cancer have the same outcomes.

Despite these recommendations, we will continue to advocate for and educate Black women everywhere on the importance of understanding breast health and early breast cancer detection. This means annual mammograms, beginning at age 40 and earlier for those with a family history of breast cancer. We urge Secretary Burwell and the Congress to work to put policies in place that protect access to screening with no cost sharing for women 40 and over.”


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