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Task force doctor stands by breast check advice

/ Source: The Associated Press

A member of the independent panel whose new mammogram recommendations have led to confusion defended the task force's report, saying Thursday that it was based on the most up-to-date, accurate information available.

Dr. Timothy Wilt, a member of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, stuck by its recommendation that most women don't need mammograms in their 40s and should get one every two years starting at 50. The American Cancer Society's long-standing position has been that women should get annual cancer-screening mammograms starting at age 40.

The panel's recommendations "were based on the most rigorous peer review of up-to-date, accurate information about the evidence about the harms and benefits of treatment," Wilt said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

On Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to ease the furor that has erupted since the panel issued its recommendations Monday. She said the task force does "not set federal policy and they don't determine what services are covered by the federal government." She advised women to "keep doing what you've been doing for years — talk to your doctor about your individual history, ask questions, and make the decision that is right for you."

Wilt did not take issue with Sebelius' statement. "Our recommendations support an individualized decision-making process," he said, and each woman still needs to talk with her doctor to make the most informed decision.

The recommendations from the task force have left women confused about whose advice to follow. And opponents of changing health care policy have criticized the new recommendations as an example of what could be expected from government-managed care.

Wilt denied accusations that the recommendations were made to help the government spend less on mammograms.

"Costs are not considered at all," he said.

The panel of doctors and scientists concluded that such early and frequent screenings often lead to false alarms and unneeded biopsies, without substantially improving odds of survival for women under 50.