Celeb Survivors Protest Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines

Olivia Newton-John, Jaclyn Smith, and Sheryl Crow oppose new recommendations.

November 19, 2009, 1:57 PM

Nov. 18, 2009— -- Hollywood stars Olivia Newton-John, Jaclyn Smith, and Sheryl Crow -- all of whom have survived breast cancer – spoke out this week against the government's new guidelines for mammograms.

Newton-John, the Grammy-winning singer and actress, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, when she was 43. Since then, she has become a tireless advocate for health issues, especially breast cancer research and the importance of early detection.

She is the spokesperson for the Liv Breast Self Examination Kit, which assists women with the first step to early detection: breast self examination.

In an interview with ABC News Radio, Newton-John said she does not agree with the new recommendation that women not have routine mammograms while they are in their forties.

"It's ridiculous, I mean, mine actually was found by my own self-examination, not a mammogram, but I have friends whose cancers were found by mammogram and they're in the forties and so, yeah, we're all pretty outraged," she told ABC News Radio.

The controversial new guidelines, released Monday by the United States Preventive Services Task Force, recommend against routine mammograms for women age 40 to 49, and they further suggest that women over 50 only have mammograms once every two years. The recommendations have been criticized by many doctors and breast cancer survivors alike.

Since the announcement, Newton-John has offered her own advice to women who are confused by these new recommendations.

"Well, I would say now is the time to be more vigilant of your own breast health.... Be very vigilant about your own breast health and take note of what's going on and if you do find something that doesn't feel right, go get it checked out and insist on a mammogram," she said.

"We were making good advances in educating women into having regular checkups and particularly doing self-examination and they were even not recommending that, which was really, didn't make sense at all, it was crazy," Newton-John said. "It just makes sense that if you take care of your own self and your own breast health that you would self-examine monthly and to suggest that women shouldn't examine themselves is like disempowering them. It just doesn't make sense at all."

Stars Speak Out

Jaclyn Smith, former star of "Charlie's Angels," was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 56. She agreed with Newton-John in expressing her concern over the government's announcement.

"I'm shocked that they want to abandon proven therapies based on cost analysis. This is wrong," Smith told "Access Hollywood."

She said she is appalled the panel came out against annual check ups. "The year before I was diagnosed, my mammogram was fine," she said. "If I hadn't done that next year's mammogram, I would've had a different outcome."

Grammy-winning singer Sheryl Crow appeared on "Larry King Live" on Wednesday to speak out about the issue as well. She was diagnosed when she was 43 years old in 2006.

"We know that [breast cancer] grows every three to four months," Crow said. "And if you're talking about someone who is 50 and they're not having a mammogram but every two years... two years in there could mean the difference between stage 1 and stage 3."

Crow also expressed concern for women who do not have insurance or might now be worried about seeking help.

"A lot of women, if they get mammograms, will go to a free mammogram clinic," she said. "We don't want to discourage women from getting mammograms just because they can't go in and have a conversation with their doctors."

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