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Can Breast Cancer Survivors Reduce Frequency of Mammograms?
  • Posted December 8, 2023

Can Breast Cancer Survivors Reduce Frequency of Mammograms?

Under current U.S. guidelines, women over 49 who've survived early-stage breast cancer are directed to undergo a mammogram every year "indefinitely."

But a new British study suggests that, just three years after being declared free of their cancer, these women might be fine having mammograms less frequently.

"The trial demonstrated that the outcomes from undergoing less frequent mammograms were no worse than undergoing annual mammograms for this group of women,"said study lead author Janet Dunn, a professor of clinical trials at the University of Warwick in the U.K.

The findings were presented Friday at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The trial involved over 5,200 women who underwent surgery to remove an early-stage breast cancer. All of these women were 50 or older when diagnosed, and they showed no signs of tumor recurrence three years after their surgeries.

At that time, Dunn's team randomly assigned the women to one of two groups.

In one group, women got annual mammograms, in line with recommendations, over the next five years.

Women in the second group got less frequent mammograms: Either once every two years for women who had undergone breast-conserving lumpectomy; or once every three years for women who'd undergone full mastectomy.

The result: Over the five-year study period, a similar (small) percentage of survivors experienced a recurrence of their cancer, regardless of how often they had a mammogram: 5.9% among the annual mammogram group and 5.5% among the less-frequent mammogram group, the team reported.

Survival was similar, too: Overall survival was 94.7% in the annual mammogram group and 94.5% in the less-frequent mammogram group.

Cutting back on mammograms didn't seem to cause women mental harm, either: Annual quality-of-life assessments showed no differences in women's mental well-being, distress and other concerns, Dunn's team noted.

"De-escalation of mammographic surveillance reduces the burden on the health care system, decreases the inconvenience for women having to undergo these mammograms and reduces the associated stress of waiting for results,"Dunn noted in a meeting news release.

More information

Find out more about follow-up for breast cancer survivors at the American Society of Clinical Oncologists.

SOURCE: San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, news release, Dec. 8, 2023

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