A new study has revealed the benefits of mammograms for women aged 75 years and older.

The research, published in the journal Radiology, shows that mammogram-detected breast cancers are found at an earlier stage; require less treatment; and lead to better survival rates.

The American researchers examined the records of 1,162 women aged 75 and older who were diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 and 2011. Over the 21-year study period, 64 per cent of the breast cancers were diagnosed with mammography and 36 per cent were found by either the patient or the patient's doctor.

Breast cancers identified by mammography were found at an earlier stage which meant patients were more likely to have a lumpectomy with radiation rather than a mastectomy with chemotherapy. Most mammography-detected disease was Stage I (62 per cent), while most patient/physician-detected disease was Stage II or III (59 per cent).

Survival rates were also better for the women whose cancer was identified by mammogram:
•    97 per cent of women with mammography-detected cancer were alive five years after diagnosis
•    87 per cent of women with patient- or doctor-detected cancer were alive five years after diagnosis.

The researchers put the superior rate of survival down to the "likely effect of fewer late-stage cancers."

BCAC chair, Libby Burgess, says this study supports BCAC’s view that women need to continue with mammograms beyond the age of 69, when the BreastScreen Aotearoa free screening programme ends.

“The risk of getting breast cancer increases with age and BCAC firmly believes that women need to remain vigilant about their breast health beyond the age of 69.

“We recommend that women over this age continue to get regular mammograms because, as this study has shown, breast cancers detected by mammogram are usually found at an earlier stage when treatment options are less invasive and can be more effective at fighting the cancer.”


18 September 2014

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