Not surprisingly, then, treatment regimens also differed according to how the tumor was discovered.
About 73 percent of women who had had a mammography (where cancers tended to be diagnosed at a later stage) had a lumpectomy, vs. only 54 percent of those who had found their tumor by palpation.
Chemotherapy was also given more frequently in the palpation group, said Caughran.
Most women (81 percent) who had their cancers detected on a mammogram were over the age of 50. Forty percent of women whose tumors were found by palpation were under 50.
"There has been admitted controversy . . . regarding screening mammographies in younger women," said Dr. Andrew Seidman, an official of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), one of the organizations sponsoring the symposium, and the moderator of a press conference about the findings held on Tuesday. "Younger women often have denser breast tissue that can impact or reduce the sensitivity of mammography as compared to older women, but that certainly doesn't negate the utility of mammography as a screening test."
"Undoubtedly, this area will continue to remain an area of controversy for some, but certainly women in this age group would be well-served to know about this data," added Seidman, a medical oncologist with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Because the research was going to be presented at a medical meeting, the findings should be considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed journal.
To learn more about mammograms, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Sept. 6, 2011, news conference with: Jamie Caughran, M.D., medical director, Comprehensive Breast Center, Lacks Cancer Center, Grand Rapi
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