Senator David Vitter, (R-LA) recently sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius regarding the 2009 U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) mammography recommendations. Citing new health care legislation, Vitter asked that the recommendations be removed from the HHS and other government websites.

In his letter, Senator Vitter wrote to Sec. Sebelius, saying, “As you know, Section 2713 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included a provision effectively requiring the federal government to set aside the November 2009 United States Preventive Services Task Force recommendations related to breast cancer screening and mammography. This provision, which I offered as an amendment to the bill, received wide bipartisan support and was adopted by unanimous consent.”

Additionally, Vitter requested that other federal agencies, including the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), to remove the USPSTF recommendations from their websites.

Since the recommendations were released in November 2009, the American College of Radiology (ACR) and other breast cancer organizations have questioned the science and transparency of the recommendations, saying that the science behind the recommendations is flawed and that the recommendations were perhaps influenced more by financial considerations than preventing breast cancer.

Vitter maintains that having any mention of the USPSTF recommendations not only goes against the new health care legislation, but also helps to confuse women about whether or not to follow the recommendations. 

The ACR, in support of Vitter’s letter, cited a survey that shows the alarming trend of the USPSTF recommendations being used by states to make changes to their coverage for mammography screening.
James Thrall, MD, chair of the ACR said in the support letter, “These USPSTF recommendations run counter to the expert guidance of the American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology (ACR), and Society of Breast Imaging and have undoubtedly confused many women to the point that they have refused needed care. Breast cancer screening policy decisions based on faulty recommendations may result in the unnecessary loss of thousands of lives.” 

For more information on this topic, visit the ACR’s website.