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Mammograms May Not Be Fool-Proof at Catching Second Cancers
Date:2/22/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- In women who have had breast cancer, annual mammograms help detect second breast cancers, but they're not as effective in women who have never had the disease, new research suggests.

"Screening mammography does work well in women with a history of breast cancer, so they should continue to get their annual screening mammogram," said Diana Miglioretti, senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle and a co-author of the new research. "But they also need to remain vigilant because they are at increased risk of cancers not detected on mammography that show up between mammograms."

In their study, published in the Feb. 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Miglioretti and her colleagues found that false positives and interval cancers were both higher in women with a history of breast cancer than in those without such history. False positives are an initial finding of cancer that turns out to be benign based on additional testing. Interval cancers are those found between mammograms, either through additional tests or symptoms.

The researchers evaluated 12 years of data from 58,870 screening mammograms in 19,078 women with early-stage breast cancer and an equal number of mammograms in another 55,315 women who had never had breast cancer. The women were matched on such factors as age and breast density, a risk factor for cancer, with higher density increasing risk.

Within a year of the screening, 655 cancers were found in women with a breast cancer history and 342 in those without.

Mammograms had detected 76.5 percent of the cancers in women who had never had breast cancer and 65.4 percent in those who had previously had the disease. As for false positives, 1 percent of the women without a history of breast cancer were referred for biopsy but ended up being cancer-free, compared with
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