“You have to demand because they don’t listen, like they don’t care,” she said.
At 44, Vanegas was diagnosed with breast cancer after a mammogram, a test that recently came under scrutiny by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
The federal task force, made up of primary health-care professionals, this week recommended against routine mammography screenings for women between the ages of 40 and 49. The group suggested that mammograms should start with women older than 50 on a biannual basis.
“Why 50? Fifty might be too late,” Vanegas said. “Cancer doesn’t give you signs. Cancer doesn’t give you a pain. You don’t feel it. It’s a silent death, so once you get to it — it might be too late.”
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, routine mammograms cause psychological harm among some women who are continually faced with false-positive results, unnecessary testing and biopsies when they don’t have cancer.
The group also said mammograms reduce mortality rates among women between ages 50 to 74 more than they do for women aged 40 to 49. Breast cancer is the second-leading cause of fatal cancer among U.S. women.
The group also advised against teaching self-breast exams because they result in more biopsies and imaging procedures.
Health-care professionals have been debating the recommendation, which has been sharply criticized by breast cancer survivors and health-care professionals.
Some doctors suggested the new recommendations could make it easier for insurance providers to reject women under 50 who request mammograms. With the new recommendations, doctors say some women may opt to not get a mammogram at all.
The task force recommendations were based on data that must be studied extensively, said radiologist Linh Chen at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.
“Clearly, not everyone agrees with this,” she said. “I think there is very much a divide in the medical community.”