Researchers Favor Annual Mammograms With No Family History
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Editor’s note: Doctors at the Elizabeth Wende Breast Care in Rochester NY recently presented a study in Vancouver on breast cancer risk factors in women under 40. Stamatia Destounis, MD, FACR, the study presenter at the ARRS annual meeting in Vancouver, answers three quick questions about the study’s reception and the continuing breast screening controversy.
Q: At the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting you presented your finding on the ideal age for women to begin screening mammograms and the appropriate intervals between screenings. How were your findings received at the conference?
A: There was interest and enthusiasm at our results which revealed that women in their 40’s with no family history of breast cancer benefit from having a yearly screening mammogram, as a considerable number of the cancers diagnosed in this age group were through screening mammography, and 64% of these women had invasive breast cancers with 26% of these having metastatic lymph nodes. These are cancers that need to be found and can’t wait for women to be fifty before starting to have a screening program. Controversial recommendations from some Organizations have recently argued that women in their 40’s don’t need screening mammography until they are 50 and our data do not agree with them at all.
Q: The screening debate seems to have new twists and turns often. For physicians speaking with confused patients, how would you recommend guiding the discussion?
A: Most women don’t have a family history of beast cancer when they are diagnosed with breast cancer. We believe that a screening mammogram yearly starting at age 40 saves lives as many well organized and regulated trials have revealed in the last 20-30 years. We recommend a yearly mammogram for women in their 40’s and our own review just presented in Vancouver revealed that a considerable number of women in their 40’s with no family history of breast cancer were diagnosed with a screening mammogram, revealing approximately two thirds of these patients having invasive breast cancer and a third with metastatic breast cancer.
Q: Do you feel the screening debate is harmful to women’s health? Has the media attention impacted screening rates?
A: I think women and their health care professionals are getting confused by the controversy surrounding screening mammography and the constant media frenzy with controversial and conflicting analyses, data collections and personal opinions. There are many opinions, and emotion regarding breast cancer and this adds to the continued controversy.