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Public Statements

Vitter's View: Protecting Access to Mammograms

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Last month, the United States Preventive Service Task Force issued a series of recommendations regarding yearly mammograms for women. Flying in the face of several decades of established medical advice, the task force recommended that women under the age of 50 should no longer get mammograms. They also advised against annual mammograms for those over 50 and warned that women should no longer conduct self-examinations for breast cancer.

Like so many of you, I was shocked to learn of this drastic shift in policy and worried about protecting the ability of women to access mammograms. In order to prevent these recommendations from being implemented, I introduced legislation to amend the Senate health care bill.

Each year, tens of thousands of women die from breast cancer. Early detection is the best tool we have to prevent the loss of life, and countless women survive breast cancer because an annual exam, or a self-exam, caught this disease early enough to be treated successfully. That's precisely the reason that women have been taught to get annual mammograms and to conduct self-examinations.

I held a roundtable in Baton Rouge on this very topic last month and heard from a number of survivors who credited annual mammograms for the early detection of their breast cancer, yet this task force called upon health care providers to decrease those screenings. Understandably, the recommendations of the USPSTF generated significant anger among the American people, and there was a lot of talk in Congress about taking steps to correct this situation.

Several members, including U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and some of my Republican colleagues, filed amendments to the U.S. Senate's health care bill to address this issue. Unfortunately, none of the other amendments proposed would have, in fact, corrected this situation. And so, this week, I filed an amendment to prevent these recommendations from restricting mammograms for women.

My amendment was adopted by the Senate and will keep the current standing recommendations in place and set aside those issued in November. This is an important victory for women's health but also for walking back the influence of government-task force recommendations that seem to be based more on cost cutting and less on what is the best quality medicine.

Breast cancer affects the lives of so many families across the United States every year. As a child, my own wife Wendy lost her mother to this disease, and it's so important that we do all we can to prevent this sort of tragedy from striking other families. The best way to do that is through early detection and prevention, and I'm thankful that the Senate chose to agree with me on this important issue.

I am interested in hearing your thoughts on this and other issues. Please contact me with your ideas at any of my state offices or in my Washington office by mail at U.S. Senator David Vitter, U.S. Senate, 516 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510, or by phone at 202-224-4623. You can also reach me on the web at http://vitter.senate.gov.


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