Many breast cancer survivors skip regular mammograms

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A new study finds that many breast cancer survivors begin to skip annual mammography exams after a few years. This is problematic because these women are at a higher risk of a recurrence or a new malignancy in the other breast at some point in the future. During the five-year study period, only one in three women in this high-risk population had received regular annual mammograms, according to the study to be published in the June issue of CANCER.

The biggest factors, the study finds, in predicting those women more likely to continue screens included those seen by a gynecologist or primary-care physician and having been treated with breast conserving surgery.
   
Existing studies show that mammography is underutilized by the general population and by Medicare beneficiaries who have survived breast cancer. However, little is known about how often survivors with managed care health insurance are screened and how non-financial factors impact its use, according to a release of the survey’s results.
   
For the study, Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH, of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and colleagues reviewed mammography use in 797 women over the age of 55 who had been treated for breast cancer. The purpose was to determine patterns in screening use in women in instances where health insurance is not a factor.

After the first year of treatment, 80 percent of women did have a mammogram. However, after the fifth year the number dropped to 63 percent, and only one in three women (33 percent) had received a mammogram each year over the five years.

Women who were being cared for by their gynecologist or primary-care physician were the most likely to have mammograms in the fifth year. Also, the study found, older women, especially those with additional medical conditions, and those with late-stage tumors were even less likely to have a mammogram.