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HHS Nominee Tom Price Targeted Panel That Urged Fewer Cancer Screenings

By ProPublica  
   February 01, 2017

But letters reviewed by ProPublica show that Price twice pushed HHS to quash the task force's recommendations to limit widely used cancer screenings. The panel said that the screenings too often led to unnecessary biopsies and other harmful treatment.

Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted a Tuesday vote on Price's nomination, citing unanswered ethics questions.

In 2011, Price and other lawmakers signed a letter asking the head of HHS to "push for the withdrawal" of the panel's draft prostate screening recommendations. The panel was made up of "bureaucrats," the letter said, and decisions about prostate testing were best left to doctors and their patients. "This recommendation jeopardizes the health of countless American men," the letter said.  

The task force went ahead and in 2012 recommended that men of all ages forgo using blood tests to search for prostate cancer. The recommendation didn't apply to men with a history of prostate cancer.

Three years later, Price signed two letters protesting the task force's proposed recommendations that mammograms be given every two years for healthy and risk-free women between the ages of 50 and 74, and by individual choice for women between 40 and 49. Other groups, including the American College of Radiology, recommend starting mammograms at 40 and having them every year or two.

In May 2015, Price and other lawmakers wrote that the task force recommendations "would jeopardize access to screenings." In June, a second letter signed by Price and others with the GOP Doctors Caucus, went further, urging the head of HHS to ensure the recommendations weren't finalized. The recommendations, the letter said, could "result in thousands of additional breast cancer deaths."  

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

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