The politics of cancer screening make entrenched beliefs hard to change

With the recent changes in breast cancer screening, mammograms have increasingly used as a political tool.

Internist Robert Centor points to an article from Politco, which shows how far it’s gone. Not surprisingly, polls have shown that 76 percent of women disagree with the new USPSTF guidelines. And politicians are using this to their advantage. Any suggestion to rein in tests, gets re-framed as, in the case of mammograms, “women’s care under seige.”

And it works, as seen in the recent New Jersey governor’s race, where “Gov. Jon Corzine launched a full-bore TV assault accusing GOP rival Chris Christie of backing a health care policy that would not guarantee mammography coverage for women – a move that, at least temporarily, put the Republican on the defensive.”

Health reformers, who support medical decisions based on data, should be discouraged at how politicized health care has become. When it comes to cancer screening, Dr. Centor puts it best: “Trying to explain the risks and benefits of testing requires more complex thinking. Obviously our political parties are not capable of complex thinking.”

Indeed.

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