Kelly Cash was so disturbed by a news report suggesting, among other things, that women need not get mammograms till they are 50, that she called the Susan G. Komen office the next day. "If there is any letter writing you are going to do, let me know how I can help," Cash said she told the staff. "I was diagnosed at 43," the 45-year-old mother of nine said. "If these guidelines were in place, I know mine would be a different story today."

Kelly Cash was so disturbed by a news report suggesting, among other things, that women need not get mammograms till they are 50, that she called the Susan G. Komen office the next day.


"If there is any letter writing you are going to do, let me know how I can help," Cash said she told the staff.


"I was diagnosed at 43," the 45-year-old mother of nine said. "If these guidelines were in place, I know mine would be a different story today."


She was reacting to a report released Monday that recommended regular breast cancer screening at age 50, rather than 40, except for women who are in the high-risk group. It also called for less frequent mammograms, every other year instead of annually and discouraged women from doing regular breasts exams.


The guidelines were released Monday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, which is comprised of a panel of experts in prevention and primary care appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


According to The New York Times, it "is an influential group that provides guidance to doctors, insurance companies and policy makers."


Those guidelines, however, have been blasted by just about every organization involved with breast care health, including health care professionals and advocates such as the American Cancer Society, The American Society of Breast Surgeons and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.


"We're not buying it," said Linda Maricle, executive director of the Peoria Affiliate of Komen for the Cure, one of the strongest advocates for early breast-cancer detection through mammograms and breast exams. "The bottom line is that part of good breast health is what is normal for you," Maricle said. "How would anybody know what is abnormal, without regular self breast exams?"


Her organization is holding to the 40 and older recommendation and is not making any changes.


The task force that made the recommendations does not include a single breast imager among them, said Lynne Jalovec, a Peoria breast cancer surgeon.


"The information they are utilizing is not based on randomized trials which clearly show that mammography saves lives," Jalovec said.


Dr. Mary Ahn from Mid-Illini Surgical also dismissed the recommendations.


"This is like going back 20 years. This would be a setback for all that we have achieved for at least a decade," Ahn said. "Through mammograms, we have been able to identify younger women with breast cancer, and we have given women more options. We have been able to return them back to their families and allowing them to be productive members of society."


This is a simple test, she said, that can be repeated and replicated in various institutions.


"It's a good objective test that we can trust," Ahn said.


Both surgeons said the 40-somethings are a vital sector of society who contribute to society and often balance multiple roles.


"You simply do not go after that productive sector of society," Jalovec said.


Komen still advocates the four-step process, Maricle said: knowing your risk, getting screened, knowing what's normal for you through self breast examination, eating well and exercising.


In the final analysis, women can make their own decisions, Maricle said: "In this day and age, you can choose what's good for you. To not continue - and to not encourage young women to do it - is wrong.''


Catharine Schaidle can be reached at (309) 686-3290 or cschaidle@pjstar.com.