May 9, 2019
Think you age out of mammograms? A new study suggests you may not need to.
Mammography remains an effective method for breast cancer screening, with the addition of tomosynthesis, or 3D Mammography, improving screening performances even more, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second most common cause of death from cancer among women in the United States. Traditional mammography is effective at reducing breast cancer-related mortality through early detection, when the cancer is most treatable. This early detection is an important factor in providing life-saving treatment, a point supported by recent research.
Despite the technological improvements and research establishing the value of early detection through screening, benefits of breast cancer screening in older women has been subject to debate. Googling around for the answer doesn’t provide clear answers, either, with even “experts” providing contradictory information. For example, The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening mammography only until the age of 74. Other professional groups, including the American Cancer Society and the American College of Radiology do not recommend stopping screening based on age.
In light of increased life expectancies, and that the cancer incidence and mortality rates increase with age, it seems odd to stop looking for breast cancer in women past a certain age, especially given the availability and relative convenience of mammograms, when compared to screening options for other forms of cancer (colorectal, for example). And yet, there are limited data on the benefits and risks of screening mammography in older women
In a new study, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) sought to learn more about the performance of screening mammography in the older population and the added value of 3D mammography.
They compared screening mammograms from more than 15,000 women (mean age 72.7 years) who had traditional mammograms with those of more than 20,000 women (mean age 72.1 years) who had 3D mammograms.
Both approaches were highly effective at detecting cancer, but 3D had some advantages over the 2-D approach, such as reduction in false-positive examinations, and higher specificity, or the ability to distinguish cancer from benign findings, than a traditional mammogram.