Mammograms of women aged 40 to 49 led to earlier detection of breast cancer and better treatment outcomes, according to a new study led by Dr. Judith Malmgren, affiliate assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington School of Public Health. The study, published in the March edition of Radiology, adds to the continuing debate over whether women in their 40s should receive mammograms to detect breast cancer, the second-leading cause of death in women nationally.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend routine mammography screening for women in their 40s, saying the potential risks – anxiety, false positives and complications from unneeded biopsies – do more harm than good. The Task Force recommends beginning mammogram screening at 50.
Dr. Malmgren and her colleagues studied 1,977 breast cancer patients at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle over an 18-year-period, from 1990 to 2008. They looked at the stage of the disease; whether the cancer was detected by mammogram, a doctor or the patient herself; and how it was treated.
The research found that breast cancer detected by mammography was easier to treat and had less recurrence than in cancers first detected by the patient or doctor. The study also found that 4 percent of women whose cancer was detected by mammograms died, compared to 11 percent whose cancers were not.
“Our study results indicate that patients should be informed that screening by mammography can help reduce morbidity and mortality associated with a more advanced-stage breast cancer diagnosis and treatment,” wrote Dr. Malmgren.
To view the abstract, click here.
[Photo: Dr. Judith Malmgren]