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Study finds mammography beneficial for younger women

CLEVELAND Researchers from University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have published new findings that mammography remains beneficial for women in their 40s. According to a study published in the May issue of American Journal of Roentgenology, women between ages 40 and 49 who underwent routine screening mammography were diagnosed at earlier stages with smaller tumors than symptomatic women needing diagnostic workup.

The paper comes on the heels of the United States Preventive Services Task Force's guidelines from November 2009 recommending against annual screening mammography for women between the ages of 40 and 49. In contrast, the American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology and other professional societies recommend annual exams beginning at age 40.

"Our findings clearly underscore the impact of neglecting to screen women with mammography for women in their 40s," says the study's senior author Donna Plecha, MD, Director of Breast Imaging at UH Case Medical Center and Assistant Professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. "Foregoing mammography for women in this age group as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force leads to diagnoses of later stage breast cancers. We continue to support screening mammography in women between the ages of 40 and 49 years."

In the study titled Neglecting to Screen Women Between the Ages of 40 and 49 Years With Mammography: What is the Impact on Breast Cancer Diagnosis? the authors compared breast cancer stage at diagnosis in two groups of women between 40 and 49 years old: women undergoing screening mammography and women with a symptom needing diagnostic workup.

The researchers conducted a retrospective chart review of 108 primary breast cancers and found that patients undergoing screening mammography were diagnosed at earlier stages with smaller tumors. They also found that screening allows detection of high-risk lesions, which may prompt chemoprevention and lower subsequent breast cancer risk.

Breast cancer is a significant health problem and statistics indicate that one in eight women will develop the disease in her lifetime. The stage at which the cancer is discovered influences a woman's chance of survival and annual mammography after the age of 40 enables physicians to identify the smallest abnormalities. In fact, when breast cancer is detected early and confined to the breast, the five-year survival rate is 97 percent.

"Annual screening mammograms starting at the age of 40 saves lives," says Dr. Plecha. "Breast cancers caught in the initial stages by mammography are more likely to be cured and are less likely to require chemotherapy or as extensive surgery." First author of the study is Mallory E. Kremer. Co-authors are: Catherine Downs-Holmes, Ronald D. Novak, Janice A. Lyons, Paula Silverman and Ramya M. Pham.

Contact: Alicia Reale
University Hospitals Case Medical Center

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