Today, we’re able to celebrate a development in the world of breast cancer screening that affects you and the women you love.
The Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act was included in the Omnibus Spending Bill that Congress voted on and passed this week before leaving Washington D.C. for their holiday break. What does this mean for your access to mammograms? We broke down what you need to know…
What is the PALS Act?
The bipartisan PALS Act protects women’s access to mammograms by putting a two-year halt on the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) draft recommendations for breast cancer screening. Bright Pink has been a vocal supporter of the PALS Act since its inception, alongside medical professional societies like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American College of Radiology, as well as other patient advocacy organizations like Susan G. Komen.
Pausing the implementation of USPSTF’s recommendations gives the medical community the time needed to voice their concerns about potentially harmful screening recommendations. As it stands, there has been little insight drawn from this community despite the fact that they are the ones who see the effects of guidelines like these among their patients. It also ensures that women have continued access to lifesaving breast screening while the USPSTF recommendations are fully debated.
What would’ve happened without the PALS Act?
The proposed USPSTF recommendations give annual mammograms for women ages 40–49 a “C“ rating. A C rating means that there is at least moderate certainty that the net benefit of the procedure is small and that the service is therefore best offered to patients only selectively. This directly contradicts the recommendations of other clinical organizations and would put more than 22 million women at risk of losing insurance coverage for mammograms without cost sharing.
We know how crucial regular screening beginning at age 40 can be for women — 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, yet if caught early, the five-year survival rate is close to 98%. Without the PALS Act, women may have found it harder to take action that will detect breast cancer early while it is still treatable.
How does it relate to the Omnibus Spending Bill that was just passed?
An Omnibus Spending Bill is a type of bill that aggregates many smaller appropriations bills (e.g. government spending bills) together, allowing Congress to vote on and pass all of them together with only one vote in the House and one vote in the Senate. The PALS Act was one of the appropriations bills included in this latest Omnibus Spending Bill.
What it means for you now….
During this two-year moratorium on the USPSTF’s recommendations, the medical and women’s health advocacy communities have the opportunity to take action and be more involved. And during this period, women in their 40s will continue to have access to valuable mammogram screenings. This is a decision that will affect millions of women. Bright Pink will continue to weigh in on the subsequent process as your advocate and we will let you know when and how you can make your own voice heard.
And in the meantime, its important to continue to have conversations with your doctor about developing a screening plan that addresses your personal and family medical history. Take time today to learn more about about breast cancer early detection, and to Assess Your Risk for breast cancer.