Mammography reduces breast cancer mortality in younger women
Screening mammography finds more breast cancers earlier and reduces mortality in women between the ages of 40 and 49, according to a study in the March issue of Radiology.
Researchers at the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle discovered that by finding cancers earlier, women undergo less invasive treatment (Radiology, March 2012, Vol. 262:3). The findings are in contrast to the controversial 2009 recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), which advised that younger women not participate in annual mammography screening.
Lead Author Judith Malmgren’s team reviewed breast cancer patient information from a dedicated registry at the Swedish Cancer Institute’s community cancer center, analyzing data on close tom 2,000 breast cancer patients between the ages of 40 and 49. The group reviewed method of diagnosis (detected by mammography, patient, or physician), stage at diagnosis (0 to IV, confirmed by biopsy), treatment, and annual follow-up information, including recurrence of disease.
The researchers found that women with cancer detected by mammography were less likely to die of breast cancer (4% versus 11%).
Malmgren’s group also found that the number of stage 0 breast cancers increased by 66% over the 18-year period, while the number of stage III breast cancers decreased by 66%.
The study also showed earlier detection lead to less invasive treatments. As compared to women whose cancer was self-detected or discovered by a physician, patients whose cancer was detected using mammography were more likely to have breast-conserving treatment and less likely to have chemotherapy. Specifically, women with cancer detected by mammography were more likely to undergo lumpectomy (67% versus 48%), and less likely to undergo modified radical mastectomy (25% versus 47%).
“The objective is to find disease when it’s more treatable,” Malmgren said.
SJRA encourages all women age 40 and above to discuss the benefits of mammography with their physician.