June 30, 2011

Mammograms Save Lives

By Hayley Mackieman, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--Early detection in breast cancer patients is increasing survival rates of women diagnosed with breast cancer. According to long-term follow-up results in a Swedish study, breast cancer screening and mammography result in a significant reduction in breast cancer mortality. The Swedish trial of mammographic screening is the first breast cancer screening trial to show a reduction in breast cancer from mammography screening alone.

Dr. Constance Lehman, director of radiology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, told Ivanhoe, "Early detection is crucial if we want to decrease breast cancer deaths. If breast cancer can be detected earlier, the woman has a much greater chance of survival. Early detection essentially saves one in three women with breast cancer."

According to researchers of the Swedish study, evaluation of the full impact of screening mammography requires follow-up exceeding 15 to 20 years. Dr. Lehman explained that because breast cancer often does not develop in women until after menopause, true detection is difficult to find. It is very important that doctors continue to follow current data as well as make medical and technological advancements in this field in order to keep increasing these survival rates.

Current guidelines from the U.S Department of Health, the American Cancer Society, and the American Medical Association, suggest women should start receiving annual mammograms by age 40. If a woman has a history of breast cancer in her family she should start screening earlier. Those at a higher risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer, "should receive their first mammogram up to ten years before the age of the family member that was diagnosed", explained Dr. Lehman.

Although early detection seems to be critical in surviving breast cancer, many women are hesitant to get a mammogram. For most women, the major barrier they must overcome when getting a mammography screening is fear. As Dr. Lehman stated, "They don't want to think of the possibility of being diagnosed with breast cancer."

Some women say that awaiting the results of their mammogram is the most anxious time of their life. Because of the current economic conditions, some are afraid of the cost of the screening. But more programs are being developed to make them accessible to all women.

Stephen W. Duffy, M.Sc., professor of cancer screening at Queen Mary, University of London was quoted as saying, "Unfortunately, we cannot know for certain who will and who will not develop breast cancer. But if you undergo a recommended screening regimen, and you are diagnosed with breast cancer at an early stage, chances are good that it will be successfully treated."

SOURCE: Radiology, June 28, 2011