Mammographic screening interval not associated with disease severity, a study shows.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual breast exams and mammographies starting at the age of 40. In contrast, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends biennial mammographies starting at the age of 50. In a recent study however, annual screening showed no benefit over the USPSTF recommended guideline. 

The study considered almost three-thousand women with cancer and more than 135,000 women without cancer who underwent mammography in a seven year study. The results showed that annual vs biennial screening did not alter adverse tumor characteristics upon discovery. In essence, annual mammography did not lessen the risk of adverse findings. In addition, co-morbidity did not have any association with advanced tumor stage.

Also, the number of false-positive test results were higher in women screened annually vs biennially. A higher number of false-positives translates into further required testing. Not only does this increase cost of health care but also anxiety and comorbidity as described by the study authors: “If [women] undergo annual instead of biennial mammography, this could result in approximately one million additional false-positive examinations and 0.29 million additional false-positive biopsy recommendations among women with comorbidity plus 2.86 million additional false-positive examinations and 0.86 million additional false-positive biopsy recommendations among women without comorbidity. Thus, if older women undergo annual screening without consideration of the presence of comorbidity, it could result in substantial morbidity from screening mammography.”

Disclaimer: Please note that the information above has been obtained from multiple sources for the sole purpose of student education and should not be used in the direct care of patients and/or clinical decision making.

References:

1) http://www.healio.com/hematology-oncology/cancer-prevention/news/online/%7B6b5a5722-5d7a-4406-9a2f-a4fb2260a698%7D/uspstf-biennial-mammography-should-begin-at-age-50

2) http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/02/01/jnci.djs645.abstract

3) http://www.acpinternist.org/weekly/archives/2013/2/12/index.html#1

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