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Is Social Networking Changing the Face of Medicine?
Date:6/8/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, June 7 (HealthDay News) -- The reaction to the 2009 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations that women in their 40s did not need routine mammograms was swift and furious. Using email, social networking sites and electronic bulletin boards, breast cancer survivors vented their outrage.

Researchers say the magnitude of the reaction heralded a new era in the online exchange of health information -- one that's faster, fiercer and more powerful than before.

"There is not NEARLY enough explanation being given for this abrupt about-face. Ever since I was a little kid, I've known about the importance of women having mammograms," posted one woman.

"It sounds like insurance companies are behind this more than anything else. Here is our New Health Reform. Kill off as many as possible," wrote another.

The reaction to the task force's recommendations "was a great illustration of how two worlds collide," said Kristin K. Barker, a sociologist at Oregon State University, and lead author of a new study. "On the one hand, you had the science that was saying mammography for women in their 40s might not be as effective as we thought, and on the other hand, you had the personal experiences of the women who believed they were saved by having a mammogram."

Shortly after the guidelines were released, women organized on message boards and sent off petitions to lawmakers. Neither federal health insurance programs such as Medicare nor private insurance companies reduced their mammogram coverage for women in their 40s, which is evidence that the outcry had an impact on policy, Barker said.

Polls showed that women disagreed with the recommendation to push back routine breast cancer screening to age 50, and that support for mammograms starting at age 40 among women hasn't wavered.

A HealthDay/Harris Poll of more than 1,000 U.S. women conducted in Apr
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