TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to some other findings, new research indicates that mammograms and breast self-exams are useful for the detection of breast cancer, including cancers in younger women.
"Annual screening mammographies and evaluations of palpable masses are important tools for breast cancer detection," said Dr. Jamie Caughran, co-author of a study to be presented at the 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium in San Francisco starting Thursday.
This report, released Tuesday, is the latest volley in an ongoing controversy about the utility of mammograms and self-exams, particularly in younger women.
In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force set off a furor when it recommended that women wait until the age of 50 before having regular mammograms, and even then they counseled that mammograms should take place once every two years rather than annually.
Previously, most guidelines had recommended that women start annual mammograms at age 40.
"This was very controversial with both patients and clinicians," said Caughran, who is medical director of the Comprehensive Breast Center at Lacks Cancer Center in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis among women, after skin cancers, and is the second-leading cause of cancer death in women.
These authors reviewed data on almost 6,000 women in Michigan, average age 59, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
They found that two-thirds of tumors were found on a mammography and 30 percent by palpation, either from a breast self-exam (90 percent) or from a doctor's exam (10 percent).
For women under the age of 50, 48 percent of cancers were detected by mammography and 46 percent by palpation (detectable by feel).
Women whose tumors were found by palpation tended to be younger than those whose masses were found by mammography (59 vs. 61). But these
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