According to a new research study, published online today (April 21) in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), mammograms useful at any women’s age. The study, the first of its kind, evaluated the benefits women get from mammograms at different ages. The study showed that having a mammography reduces the risk of advanced breast cancer in women over the age of 80.
Researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, recommend a mammography, the standard for breast cancer screening and early detection, at any age.
Dr. Gildy Babiera, research leader, and their colleagues used information derived from a national Database known as National Cancer Institute SEER (Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results). This database includes data regarding information on cancer rates, incidence, and survival rates in the United States. The researchers examined SEER data for the years 1996-2002. They evaluated the use of mammography in the five years prior to diagnosis for patients at different ages.
More than 12 thousand women over age 80 were analyzed. Groups were constructed according to the use or not of mammography. Patients were grouped into non-users (49%); irregular users (29%); and regular users, (22 %).
The study found some interesting results that point to the usefulness of mammograms at any age. In fact, 68% percent of regular users were diagnosed early with the breast cancer disease while nonusers and irregular users more often were less likely to be diagnosed with early stages of the disease. What this means that the group of users were more likely to be diagnosed earlier or in an earlier stage of the disease than non-users or irregular users.
The survival rates were also significantly different among different groups. Ninety-four percent of regular users survived after 5 years while only 88% survived in the non-user group.
Researchers who conducted this study believe that doctors should review each woman’s case and determine if a mammogram is in her best interest. However, as shown in this study, detecting the disease earlier could significantly improve her quality of life and survival chances.
In addition, if breast cancer disease is detected by a routine mammography maybe women could have less invasive surgical procedures and could avoid toxic treatments such as chemotherapy.
The usefulness of mammograms in younger women (over 40) has been proved repeatedly. Now, according to this study it seems that mammograms may be useful for women at any age. Even over 80 it may represents an advantage over women who do not get a mammography.
Babiera et al. 2008. Mammography Before Diagnosis Among Women Age 80 Years and Older With Breast Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology. (doi: 10.1200/JCO.2007.12.8058)