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Mammogram sensitivity depends on menstrual cycle
Date:12/6/2010

ere from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium, a network of research sites nationwideincluding Group Health Research Institute, which has collected breast cancer screening data since 1994.

"Premenopausal women having regular screening mammography could benefit from scheduling their exams during the first week of their menstrual cycle," says Miglioretti. She and her collaborators found that in the first week, when breast tissue may be less dense and not engorged, mammography was more sensitive at detecting cancer. Specificity, which is the ability to reliably recognize the absence of breast cancer, did not change with menstrual cycle.

Miglioretti notes, however, that the increased sensitivity was only for women with a screen in the past two years, who were assumed to be having regular screens, and not for women being screened for the first time. Miglioretti says this result was "surprising," but offers some possible reasons. In general, when first screens find a tumor, it's relatively large. Low breast density is more important for detecting small tumors, so the menstrual cycle influence might not have been seen for first screens. "Larger tumors may be easier to see later in the menstrual cycle, but this needs to be studied," says Miglioretti. In addition, her findings do not apply to diagnostic mammography: mammography performed to work up a symptom such as a breast lump. If a woman finds a breast lump or has another breast concern, she should contact her doctor right away.

Dr. Miglioretti and her co-authors know that women can't always predict their cycle, but say if they can, scheduling during the first week may have an additional advantage. Many women experience breast tenderness in the second half of their cycle, so avoiding this time could reduce mammography discomfort.

Current recommendations are that women aged 50-74 have a routine screening mammogram every other year. Women are encouraged to consult with their heal
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Contact: Joan DeClaire
declaire.j@ghc.org
206-947-4560
Group Health Research Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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