On Tuesday, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommended women start taking screened for breast cancer at age 40 instead of 50—but Katie Couric says that’s not enough.
Couric has opened up about her breast cancer journey after being diagnosed with stage 1A last year. The former TODAY the co-anchor has since used his platform to women’s request to get annual mammograms. She received her own diagnosis six months later at her screening, she shared on her website. Mammograms can save lives, and research shows that they have reduced breast cancer deaths by nearly 40% since 1990.
However, mammograms miss one in eight breast cancers, and women with dense breast tissue like Couric can face false negative results. Couric needed further screening to find the “olive-sized” tumor in her breast.
Dense breasts have more fibrous and glandular tissue, and less fatty tissue, according to the National Cancer Institute. It is difficult to distinguish between a tumor and dense tissue on a mammogram, so small tumors can be missed.
While calling the updated screening guidelines “interesting” a new one post on InstagramCouric says they don’t care about women with thick breast tissue.
“This task force, which is also responsible for telling us when we need to get screened and what screening we need to get doesn’t recommend additional screening like ultrasounds or MRIs for 45% of those woman in her 40s with thick breasts, which is kind of a bummer, really,” Couric said.
“If they make that recommendation, insurance companies will have to pay for additional life-saving screenings,” he added.
The task force addressed this concern, but did not update its guidelines to cover additional screening if necessary.
“We know that women with dense breasts have a higher risk of breast cancer and, unfortunately, mammograms are not good for them,” said Dr. John Wong, member of the task force, in a press release about the recommendation. “What we don’t know yet, and what we urgently call for more research, is whether and how more screening for women with dense breasts might help, including through ultrasounds, breast MRIs, or others.”
Couric said the public can weigh in and comment on the recommendation through June 5 on the task force’s website.