WASHINGTON (April 8) -- The new guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive
Services Task Force (USPTF) recommending fewer breast cancer screenings
and beginning them at a later age have sparked heated debate across
Nowhere are they more hotly contested than among African-American physicians
and health care professionals, some who say the new guidelines could
lead to the deaths of thousands of African-American women who otherwise
might have been saved through early detection.
The subject comes into full focus as MSNBC political analyst Michelle
Bernard and a panel of distinguished experts, including health care
activists, government officials and the nation’s leading cancer physicians
and health care professionals, tackle the subject from 8:30 a.m. to
11 a.m. Monday, April 12, in the Howard University Hospital Towers Auditorium,
2041 Georgia Ave. NW.
Included on the panel are Jenny Luray, president of the Komen Advocacy
Alliance and senior vice president of government affairs for Susan G.
Komen for the Cure; Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall, cancer researcher, former
president of the American Cancer Society and the Society of Surgical
Oncology and professor of surgery at Howard University College of Medicine;
Dr. Eric Novack, an orthopedic surgeon and chair of the conservative
advocacy group Arizonans for Health Care Freedom; U.S. Rep. Donna Christensen,
a Democratic delegate to Congress from the U.S. Virgin Islands; Dr.
Worta McCaskill Stevens, head of Breast Prevention and the Minority-based
Clinical Community Oncology Program for the National Cancer Institute,
and Dr. Charles P. Mouton, chair of the Department of Community and
Family Medicine at Howard University College of Medicine and Howard
The Howard University Cancer Center and the Howard University Hospital
Department of Surgery are hosting the discussion.
The USPTF recommended in November that women begin mammograms at age
50 instead of age 40, although women in their 40s account for 20 percent
of breast cancer patients. Additionally, the task force recommended
women get mammograms every other year rather than annually.
Dr. Edward Cornwell, Howard University Hospital surgeon in chief and
chair of the Department of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine,
said he was pleased to have such a diverse group discuss a challenging
“This topic is critically important, because medical professionals,
policy makers and the public need a fuller understanding of the implications
of these guidelines.” Cornwell said. “They can be truly significant
in the health care of women, and particularly among African-American
Dr. Wayne Frederick, director of the Howard University Cancer Center
and chief of the Division of General Surgery at Howard University College
of Medicine, agrees.
“This change in the guidelines is going to have a significant impact
on African-American women, and I don’t think it will be for the good,”
Frederick said. “Although they are less likely to get breast cancer,
African-American women are more likely to die from the disease.”
Part of the reason for their higher death rate is because African-American
women are already less likely to get the life-saving mammograms that
detect cancers in the early, more treatable stages, Frederick said.
“My concern is that these recommendations could cause African-American
women to get fewer breast screenings than they do now, and they are
already far too low,” he said. “Consequently, we would have even
more African-Americans who come to us with later stages disease, which
makes it harder to treat and makes the outcomes worse.”
Additionally, he said, African American women are more likely to be
diagnosed with the types of breast cancer that are harder to treat.
“We believe that is also part of the reason for the higher death rate,”
he said. “That is even more reason for them to get regular screenings
and to begin at an earlier age.”
The symposium, entitled “Changing Cancer Screening Guidelines and
the Effects on Cancer Disparities,” is free and open to the
public. It is sponsored by Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. For more information
and to RSVP please contact 202.806.7697.