BY Michelle Garcia
November 17 2009 9:15 PM ET
For years medical professionals have advised women over the age of 40 to get annual breast exams as a way to detect cancerous tumors. However, the new guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Service Task Force, which shun breast self-exams and suggest only women between the ages of 50 and 74 get mammograms every other year, are startling to some, while others welcome the recommendations.
A majority of women, regardless of sexual orientation, are used to going to their doctors primarily for reproductive or breast health care, says Amber Hollibaugh, the chief officer of elder and LBTI women's services at the Lesbian Community Care Project of the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago.
"As flawed as the system is, that's how women are taught," she told Advocate.com Tuesday. "When you go to a doctor, you're usually prompted to go by your reproductive health or breast cancer concerns. So the irony is that most women access all their health care using those two funnels. They come in and they say, 'I need a mammography. Oh, yeah, and I also ate a doughnut yesterday and passed out.' So then the doctor says, 'Well, I should go in and check you for diabetes.'"
The already low percentage of LBTI women going into medical facilities for reproductive and breast health issues could diminish even further with the task force's recommendations.
"If you're worried about cancer as a woman, but you have gender issues, like being a butch lesbian who doesn't want to do mammography, you're going to hesitate to access care in traditionally the only way that women typically get it," Hollibaugh said.
While the task force does suggest that the number of mammograms a woman receives should be established on a case-by-case basis, the overall recommendation would reduce the number of tests for the average woman, especially those under 50.