Southern Illinois Healthcare takes second look at cancer screening recommendations

One local healthcare system is taking issue with US Preventative Task Force breast screening recommendations after discovering 53 cases this year that would have gone undetected.

At 43 years old, Christina Vallerga was just six months removed from her previous mammogram when she noticed a lump that would change her life.

“It’s very scary,” Vallerga said. “Just the C-word in general is very scary, but to think that it popped up that quick.”

Vallerga’s cancer was stage one, but she gets emotional thinking what would happen if she’d waited another year and a half for her next exam, as the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends.

“It was relatively small, but how fast it came on in that short of time, how much larger would it have been?” Vallerga said. “Where would it have spread in that time frame?”

While he task force recommends that women under 40 ask their doctors about getting a mammogram and don’t need self-detection training, Dr. Nova Foster follows another school of thought.

“Women of average risk should start screening after 40 and start screening annually until such time that they wouldn’t be able to have treatment for a cancer diagnosed,” Foster said.

“Most women’s breasts are lumpy and bumpy anyway so you don’t really know what’s what, but let me tell you once you find something that wasn’t there before, you’ll know it,” Vallerga said.

“The earlier we pick up breast cancer the more treatable it is, the better the outcome,” Foster said.

Most insurance companies allow women to get a free screening mammogram every year.

However, a follow-up diagnostic mammogram, which provides better imaging, and a visit with a surgeon requires a doctor’s referral.

The task force revised its recommendation in 2009 to reduce radiation exposure and because of false positives.

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