Listeners Reject, Accept New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and Lee Hill, the program's "digital media guy," comb through listener feedback and offer important news updates to recent conversations heard on the program. This week, the audience shares personal stories in reaction to controversial new guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a component of the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency says suggests women can now wait an additional 10 years before getting an annual mammogram.

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And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with us as usual. Hi, Lee, what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. This week, we received some critical feedback for our parenting segment on how working mothers are sometimes frowned upon in custody battles. Here's a clip from that conversation with family attorney Shauntese Curry Trye.

Ms. SHAUNTESE CURRY TRYE (Attorney): We've abolished the tender-years doctrine, which basically says that there is a motherly preference in the courts. When a mother decides to step outside her box, which is the cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids, and actually decides to do something outside of the home, she is held to a higher standard of scrutiny when it comes to custody cases.

HILL: Now Michel, many listeners wished out conversations had included a male perspective, but that wasn't the only criticism. Here's a note from John(ph). He writes: I think it's obnoxious that your host and guests have the audacity to presume that now that men and women are getting equal treatment in custody assessments, it's somehow a punishment of moms working and not playing the traditional mom role.

I am a working father, I am married to a working mother, and we work very well together. But if that were to go south, I am comforted by the fact that I will be given the same custody consideration as my children's mother.

MARTIN: John, we thank you for writing, but I'm going to push back on this. I'm going to point out that this conversation was not based on a presumption. It was based on reporting and the experiences of those offering their views, and there is a difference.

You can agree with it or disagree with it, but that's what it was, and I invite listeners to listen again to the conversation if they want to understand this issue from the perspective of those who were discussing it.

And now on to another important topic. We received some very personal stories in response to the controversial new guidelines issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. That's an independent panel of experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services, and the task force said that women can now wait an additional 10 years before getting an annual mammogram. They should start at age 50, the panel said, instead of age 40, and that most woman ages 50 to 74 can even skip a year between exams.

Here's Dawn(ph). This is what she had to say.

DAWN: At age 40, I had my first mammogram and then an ultrasound, which revealed invasive cancer. I had no symptoms and no risk factors for breast cancer. I don't care what the statistics show, you cannot put a value of my life into a statistic.

MARTIN: Well, Dawn, we thank you very much for sharing your story with us, and our very best wishes to you.

HILL: Well, Michel, we heard from another online commenter, Trina(ph), who takes another perspective. She agrees with the agency guidelines.

TRINA: I'm happy that I no longer have to endure the stress of being pinched, prodded and stuck unnecessarily because of a false positive exam. I think that the reasoning behind the new recommendation is because of people with, what we call in my family, lumpy breasts, where we end up going through weeks of agony thinking that you might have breast cancer when, in fact, you just had lumpy breasts.

HILL: And Michel, another commenter is just unsure about the whole thing. Here's Lynn(ph) expressing her concerns.

LYNN: I believe in math and statistics, and I still haven't made up my mind. I'm not technically in a high-risk group, no family history, but I am overweight, and I know that increases my risk. I think I should continue to have my annual exam, but what will my insurance company say? That concerns me.

MARTIN: Well, according to Kathleen Sebelius, who is the secretary of health and human services, Lynn, she says don't stop doing what you're doing. The Cabinet secretary issued a statement earlier this week saying, quote, mammograms have always been an important life-saving tool in the fight against breast cancer, and they still are today. Keep doing what you have been doing for year and make the decision that is right for you.

And on Monday, we're going to continue to talk about this issue. So I want to thank all of our listeners for weighing in and sharing their stories and concerns and questions. And thank you, Lee, for updates.

HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, with TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. Please remember to leave your name. You can also log on to our new Web site, where you can read more from our fellow listeners and enjoy a simpler social-networking experience. Go to Click on programs, then on TELL ME MORE and blog it out.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Coming up, Oprah's leaving her daily broadcast television show, and the Barbershop guys are crushed. That conversation is next on TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin.

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