Monday, October 3, 2011

Annual mammograms after breast cancer needed for survivors

Oct. 2, 2011 – Women who have had breast cancer should have annual mammograms for at least 10 years to cut their chances of dying of the disease, a review of past studies suggests.

The findings support current guidelines in both the United States and the United Kingdom, but a separate survey conducted by the researchers led by Clare Robertson of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, found that 74 percent of surgeons and radiologists stopped following women with annual mammograms before 10 years post treatment. The study and the survey were published online in Health Technology Assessment ahead of the Oct. issue. 

In a MedPage Today report on the study, which pooled data from eight previous studies, showed that death from any cause was 34 percent lower among those who continued annual mammograms for 10 years compared to women who discontinued annual mammograms after surgery. When they looked only at deaths from breast cancer those who had annual mammograms had a 72 percent lower death rate compared to women who went without the annual mammograms.

As part of the study the researchers surveyed 183 surgeons and radiologists at 105 British cancer centers. The results showed that a little more than half stopped the annual mammograms at 10 years, and 35 percent stopped them at five years. The survey showed that 85 percent of clinicians reported discharging women from regular follow-up visits sometime before 10 years had passed, and 65 percent discharge them around the five-year mark.

The researchers cautioned that the survey part of the study should be read with caution as there had been a poor response rate, with only 17 percent of 1,048 surveys sent to surgeons and radiologists. 

As for the pooled data study, the researchers also found that annual mammography was cost effective. When they took into account adjustments to quality of life after breast cancer treatment, the annual cost per patient of annual mammograms was $7,364 US, which is well below the traditional British threshold of $46,518 being considered cost-effective. 

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