Nov 18th, 2009
1 in 1900
Turns out that the U.S. Preventative Task Force issued a new statement that advises women between the ages of 40-49 that they don’t really need mammograms. This announcement prompted fierce debate over the issue, at which point “The Today Show” brought on their Chief Medical Editor to discuss it.
And it just so happens that CafePress Shopkeeper Kathleen Moore was watching this segment, and it got her pretty fired up. Here’s what she said:
I was watching The Today Show this morning, and they were interviewing Dr. Nancy Snyderman about this new study that recommends doing away with routine mammograms for those under 50. She said, “You may have to screen up to 1900 women in that between-the-ages-of-40-49 group to save one life — so it is pitting the American Cancer Society against some other academic groups.” I found myself responding out loud to the TV “that 1 in 1900 is my sister!” My sister was diagnosed with breast cancer thanks to an under-40 routine mammogram. Then I started thinking about all those “1-in-1900s” — they’re all someone’s sister, or mother, or daughter, or wife. We know that a mammogram catching something doesn’t necessarily save a patient’s life, but early detection gives you the best chance.
To me that cuts to the heart of the issue: when you start making public health decisions based on statistics instead of medical science, you lose sight of the point — to save and preserve life. In cost-analysis terms, 1900 procedures for the benefit of one person may seem ludicrous, but to that one woman’s sister it means the world.
To put some perspective on the number: 1 in 1900 is 48 people at a sold-out Los Angeles Coliseum. It’s 4,368 people in Manhattan. It gives you 1/6 the lifetime odds of accidentally dying via firearm (that troubling statistic is one in 300 people), but about the same as your odds of dying in a year due to an accidental injury (1 in 1600).
It’s also of 657 of “The Today Show’s” 1.25M weekly viewers.
So: is that one person in 1900 enough of a reason to continue with early-detection mammograms? While the debate continues around not only the necessity of the test itself but whether or not insurance companies will begin to deny coverage for under-50 mammograms given the new position of the government, we’ll go to the polls: