Imagine a world where orthopedists were tasked with establishing the level of care necessary for people who had heart attacks. Or podiatrists were put in charge of setting guidelines for infertility treatments. Or pediatricians determined how and when elderly patients with dementia should be treated.
I'm sure all of these capable physicians could do enough research and come up with a feasible plan of action - to an extent. But it doesn't make sense,does it? Wouldn't you want to consult with an expert in their field? Someone with years of specialized study and hands-on clinical experience?
Of course you would want an cardiologist in charge of your heart condition! Your podiatrist is a great guy, but do you really want your foot doctor in charge of your reproductive system? Is the doctor devoted to the study of childhood development the best person to determine treatment for your 80 year old mother? No and no!
But yet that is exactly what we in the United States are doing when it comes to breast health.
As journalist, physician, and medical educator Eileen Schattner pointed out in her blog post "Can the Mammogram Panel Read a Mammogram?," not one of the people charged with setting the guidelines as to when, and how often, you should be screened for breast cancer is a radiologist, surgeon, pathologist, oncologist, or radiation oncologist – the specialists who are typically involved in the diagnosis and care of women with breast cancer.
Considering that breast cancer deaths dropped 35% over the last 20 years (aligning almost perfectly with the American Cancer Society's recommendation in the mid-late 1990's for annual screening mammograms beginning at age 40), shouldn't the physicians who have had the most impact on making more women breast cancer survivors at least have a voice as at the table when debating the merits of early, annual, mammography screening?
I think so. Don't you?