Study Suggests Less Frequent Mammograms Equally Effective for Older Breast Cancer Survivors

Study Suggests Less Frequent Mammograms Equally Effective for Older Breast Cancer Survivors 2

A significant British study has challenged the traditional practice of annual mammograms for breast cancer survivors, suggesting that less frequent screenings could be equally effective for women aged 50 and above. This new finding could have substantial implications for breast cancer follow-up care, potentially easing the burden of yearly tests.

The study, led by Janet Dunn of the University of Warwick and funded by the UK’s National Health Service, involved over 5,200 women who had successfully undergone breast cancer surgery, primarily lumpectomies. After three years of annual screenings, participants were randomly assigned to either continue yearly mammograms or switch to a less frequent schedule.

Remarkably, the outcomes were very similar for both groups. Six years into the study, 95% of the women in each group remained cancer-free, and the breast cancer survival rate stood at 98% for both.

This research presents a compelling case for re-evaluating current screening guidelines, which often recommend indefinite annual mammograms for breast cancer survivors. The study’s findings could lead to changes in practices, especially in the UK, and potentially influence global guidelines.

In the study, the frequency of mammograms in the less-frequent group varied depending on the type of surgery: women who had mastectomies received mammograms every three years, while those who underwent lumpectomies had them every two years. It’s important to note that these findings do not apply to younger breast cancer survivors, who typically face more aggressive forms of cancer, nor to women who have had both breasts removed.

Breast cancer specialist Dr. Laura Esserman of the University of California, San Francisco, not involved in the study, highlighted the need for a more personalized approach to screening. However, Corinne Leach of Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, cautioned that while the study is robust, more research is needed before US guidelines can be altered.

This study offers a promising direction for future breast cancer care, emphasizing a tailored approach to post-treatment screening, potentially reducing anxiety and costs associated with annual mammograms for older survivors.

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