Screening Mammos Mean Smaller Tumors, Less Chemo for Some

January 30, 2014

Screening mammograms for women in their 40s may result in earlier high-risk breast cancer diagnosis, less chemotherapy, and lower future risk of subsequent breast cancer.

Women in their 40s who are found to have breast cancer through screening mammograms generally benefit from earlier diagnosis and may be less likely to need chemotherapy, according to a study published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Researchers from University Hospitals Case Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, sought to determine if there were significant differences in how women, aged 40 to 49, were treated for high-risk lesions discovered by screening mammography compared with women with symptoms, who underwent diagnostic evaluations.

Researchers reviewed pathology results of all image-guided biopsies performed at three breast center locations from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2011. Presentation, pathology, tumor size, stage, receptor characteristics, and treatment, were recorded for patients diagnosed with high-risk lesion or breast cancer.

Of a total of 230 primary breast cancers, the findings showed 149 cases (65 percent) were detected in the screened group and 81 (35 percent) in the non-screened group. The women in the non-screened group were more likely to undergo chemotherapy than the women in the screened group. The women in the screened group were more likely to be diagnosed at earlier stages, to have negative axillary lymph nodes, and to have smaller tumors.

The researchers concluded that because women in this age group who underwent screening mammographies found the tumors or breast cancer at their earlier stages, there was less need for chemotherapy.

“The majority of high-risk lesions were diagnosed in the screened group, which may lead to the benefit of chemoprevention, lowering their risk of subsequent breast cancer, or screening with MRI, which may diagnose future mammographically occult malignancies,” they wrote.