President Donald Trump's Health Department wipes off information on breast cancer from its website without explanation. It went unnoticed, until now.
Andrew Bergman, the project's director of policy, spoke negatively of the sudden erasure:
"This censorship sows real doubt about health considerations for populations of vulnerable women throughout the country," Bergman said.
Apparently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services removed the information after it found that it is "very rarely used" and duplicated information that is already available on sister agencies.
What The HHS Removed
While information about mammogram breast cancer screening remains on the website, the informational pages and factsheets about the disease, including symptoms, treatment, risk factors, and public no-cost or low-cost cancer screening programs were wiped off, the Web Integrity Project of the Sunlight Foundation confirmed.
The information was previously accessible within the Office on Women's Health webpage, an organization that is part of the HHS and spearheads programs related to women's health across the agency.
"Among the material removed is information about provisions of the Affordable Care Act that require coverage of no-cost breast cancer screenings for certain women, as well as links to a free cancer screening program administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the report said.
The department neither had announced the removal nor explained why such a decision was made. A spokesperson for the HHS confirmed that the pages were indeed removed on Dec. 6, 2017, arguing that the content was not mobile-friendly and as mentioned, very rarely used.
"Before we update any of the information... we engage in a comprehensive audit and use analysis process that includes reviewing other federal consumer health websites to ensure we are not duplicating efforts or presenting redundant information," the HHS spokesperson told ThinkProgress.
The spokesperson advises everyone seeking information on breast cancer to instead access the Womenshealth.gov website, where the subject is displayed in a better layout.
While this website includes information on ovarian, cervical, and uterine cancer, it does not have a special section for breast cancer. A notice on the website says that the page has been updated on March 20, but whatever changes that the update brought, it didn't include ones for breast cancer.
Why Breast Cancer Information Is Crucial
Access to information on breast cancer is crucial to the early discovery of the illness during its early stages, potentially helping patients deal with it as soon as possible. Without such crucial information readily available on the internet from an official government source, that is to say, many potential breast cancer patients may remain unaware that they have the symptoms.
For the HHS, it wouldn't be the case of information removal. In March, the same Web Integrity Project also discovered that it had removed important health information about lesbians and bisexual women from the Office on Women's Health webpage.