Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ultrasound screening of dense breasts will cost a lot with little benefit

CANCER DIGEST – Dec. 9, 2014 – Adding ultrasound screening for all U.S. women with dense breasts would substantially increase healthcare costs with little improvement in overall health, according to an analysis released today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

With more states mandating notification of women when mammograms shows they have dense breasts, a risk factor for breast cancer, researchers at Dartmouth Hitchcock’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center looked at the costs and benefits of following up mammograms with ultrasound for these women.

They used data from the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) and three simulation models developed independently within the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-funded Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network consortium to evaluate the health outcomes and expense of supplemental screening via ultrasound.

The study estimates that, for every 10,000 women between the ages of 50-74 with dense breasts who receive supplemental ultrasound screening after a normal mammogram, about four breast cancer deaths would be prevented, but an extra 3,500 biopsies would be done on women without breast cancer.

It is estimated that 40 percent of U.S. women from 40 to 74 years old have dense breasts, consequently the value of notifying them of their status and recommending next screening steps for breast cancer could have a significant emotional and financial impact on these women, as well as the health care system. 

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