Breast Cancer Screenings Have Been Effective

Mammograms have caught breast cancer earlier leading to fewer late stage cancers

(RxWiki News) Although there are varying guidelines on when to start and how often to receive mammograms, a new study has reinforced the importance of the breast cancer screening test.

A team from the University of Michigan found that since the dawn of readily available mammography in the late 1970s, there has been a decrease in the number of late-stage breast cancer cases.

Similarly, there have been more cases of early-stage breast cancer as the screenings have caught the condition early before it develops.

"Ask your doctor about guidelines for breast cancer screening."

Mark Helvie, MD, of the Department of Radiology and Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, MI, led this research.

The researchers set out to study the effectiveness of breast cancer screenings using mammograms, X-ray images of the breast.

Dr. Helvie and team looked at data tracking breast cancer cases including the particular stage of progression.

The team compared figures from 1977-79, before mammograms became commonly available, with a second set of data from 2007-09. All of the study subjects were women 40 years of age and older.

In total, cases of invasive breast cancer decreased by 9 percent for the group who received mammograms as compared to the group from three decades earlier that did not receive the screening.

The group who received mammograms showed a 37 percent decrease in incidence of late-stage breast cancer as compared to peers from three decades earlier.

Cases of early stage breast cancer increased by 48 percent for the group receiving mammograms.

Dr. Helvie said in a prepared statement that the two trends — fewer late-stage breast cancers and more early-stage cancers — were the result of a “successful screening program.”

“Not only are we detecting more early-stage cancer, but we are decreasing the number of late-stage cases that tend to be more challenging to treat and more deadly," he said.

Dr. Helvie acknowledged that there has been an overall increase in cases of breast cancer in the time period covered by this study, but added that better screening and treatment has decreased breast cancer-related death.

This study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Cancer.

As this study was based solely on medical records, it did not require any specific funding. The authors did not disclose any relevant conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 12, 2014