According to new research, many women who are diagnosed in their 40s with breast cancer, unfortunately lack knowledge as to what many well-known risk factors are for this disease. This can potentially add power to the debate as to whether or not preventative screening is necessary for this age group.
This surprising study discovered that few of the 136 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer after mammogram had a family history of the disease or dense breast tissue. Dense breast tissue or a family history is often one of the determining factors as to whether a woman between the ages of 40 and 49 is screened for cancer with a mammography.
Dr. Elissa Price stated that ìstrong family history was only present in 12% of the young women.î Dr. Price is the University of Californiaís Director of Clinical Breast Imaging Operations in San Francisco.
Dr. Price continued to state that ìonly 14% of those diagnosed had extremely dense breasts.î
If screening were limited to women who had risk factors, screening-detected cancers would be reduced by more than 75%, she stated.
Dr. Priceís findings were scheduled to be presented Tuesday to the Radiological Society of North America during their annual meeting held in Chicago. Typically, studies which are presented during medical meetings are viewed as preliminary until they become published in a peer reviewed journal of medicine.
Unfortunately, many women in their 40s receive conflicting advice regarding mammograms from varying organizations. The US Preventive Services Task Force released recommendations in 2009 that younger women in their 40s have conversations with with their doctors regarding the pros and cons of routinely scheduled mammograms. These recommendations take into account the situations of individual women, known risk factors, and their own personal values.
The beliefs of the task force were that the potential harm of screening, including false positives, far outweigh the benefits gained in younger women. This recommendation is currently under review and in the process of being updated.
The American Cancer Society, as well as many other organizations, are strongly recommending annual mammography screening for women who are at least at average risk, starting at age 40.
The American College of Radiology stated that the findings of this new research ìwould appear to echo previous evidence.î This previous evidence concluded that risk based screening would miss the vast majority of cancers.
Dr. Carol Lee, who is a spokeswoman for the American College of Radiology said that roughly 75% of women who are diagnosed with breast have no prior risk factors including family history.
A very strong family history basically means that someone has a direct relative (mother, daughter, or sister) who was diagnosed with breast cancer, prior to being age 50, Price stated.
If breasts are considered to be extremely dense or dense, then those risk factors will make detection by mammography much more difficult to detect.
This new study reviewed 136 different breast cancer patients who were diagnosed between 1997 and 2012 as the direct result of a mammography. The researchers stated that half of these cancers were invasive while the other half were noninvasive and early stage.
The cancersí hormone profiles were also evaluated in order to determine whether or not the cancers needed estrogen to grow. These hormone requiring cancers are known as ER-positive cancers.
This research goes to further support routine screening of younger women as more than 90% of them were known to have excellent survival rates, Price stated.