Sisters Network Chicago Chapter - Benefits From yearly Screening Mammograms

"According to a 2017 research study"

Several large studies, including a review by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force in 2009 and a study on the causes of death in the United Kingdom in 2013, have questioned the value of screening mammograms.

Doctors who question the value of mammograms say that while mammograms do save lives, for each breast cancer death prevented, three to four women are overdiagnosed. Overdiagnosis means either:

  • a screening mammogram finds a suspicious area that would have been eventually diagnosed as cancer by other means, without any effect on prognosis
  • a screening mammogram finds a suspicious area that never would have affected a woman's health if it hadn't been found or treated

  • False positive results from screening mammograms also have helped fuel the debate about the value of breast cancer screening. When a mammogram shows an abnormal area that looks like a cancer but turns out to be normal, it's called a false positive. Ultimately the news is good: no breast cancer. But the suspicious area usually requires follow-up with more than one doctor, extra tests, and extra procedures, including a possible biopsy. There are psychological, physical, and economic costs that come with a false positive.

    These studies and the resulting stories in the media have fueled an ongoing debate about the value of screening mammograms.

    Since that time, the American Medical Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Radiology, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network all have issued guidelines saying that all women should be eligible for annual screening mammograms starting at age 40. In 2015, the American Cancer Society recommended that annual screening mammograms start at age 45 and then change to having mammograms every 2 years starting at age 55.

    A small study suggests that women prefer to have mammograms every year instead of every 2 years because the benefits of annual screening outweigh any potential risks.

    The study was presented on Nov. 27, 2017 at the Radiological Society of North American annual meeting. Click here to read the abstract of "Biennial versus Annual Screening Mammography: What Do Women Prefer?" (PDF)

    "Women understand that yearly mammograms have been shown to save lives and do not consider previously reported 'harms' to be as important as getting screened," said study author Ghizlane Bouzghar, M.D., chief radiology resident at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.

    For the study, the researchers surveyed 731 women with an average age of 59 who were having both screening and diagnostic mammograms at Einstein Medical Center from December 2016 to February 2017. The women were asked a number of questions about mammogram screening, including:

  • Does an abnormal mammogram or breast biopsy cause emotional harm?
  • Is screening every 2 years associated with more or less anxiety?
  • Do you prefer to have a screening mammogram every other year or every year?

  • The researchers also recorded the women's:

  • age
  • race
  • family and personal history of breast cancer
  • any previous breast biopsies
  • any previous abnormal mammograms
  • any underlying anxiety disorders

  • The results showed that 71% of the women preferred having a mammogram every year.

    "Only 17% of the participants felt having biennial screening would cause less anxiety," the researchers said. "Of the patients who reported a previous abnormal mammogram, 13% believe biennial screening would cause less anxiety."

    "Many women are much better educated about the value of screening mammography than they are given credit for," Bouzghar said. "I also think that some of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's concerns about the 'harms' were somewhat paternalistic, and in 2017 women are more empowered about many things, including their healthcare."

    Sisters Network National Office has always believed that the importance of diagnosing breast cancer early, when it's most treatable. It doesn't get any less important as a woman gets older and it value is proven when done on a yearly basis. Sisters Network National Office still strongly believes that mammogram screenings on a regular basis make sense for any woman age 40 and older.

    SOURCE: Breastcancer.org, November 28, 2017 with additional notes/commentary provided by Sisters Network Chicago Chapter