Women ages 40 to 49 reap benefits from mammography

Patients with breast cancer who undergo mammography screening between the ages of 40 and 49 benefit from receiving a diagnosis at an earlier stage, are less likely to require chemotherapy and its associated morbidities, and may benefit from chemoprevention, according to a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.

Differing recommendations for mammography screening in the U.S. have caused much confusion among women, particularly those who fall between the ages of 40 and 49. Lead author Donna Plecha, MD, of University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, and colleagues determined whether there were significant differences in treatment recommendations, stage at diagnosis, and identification of high-risk lesions for women in that age group who underwent mammography versus women with symptoms who needed screening evaluation.

The researchers retrospectively reviewed pathology results from all imaging-guided biopsies that were performed from January 2008 to December 2011 at three breast center locations. Information regarding presentation, pathology, tumor size, stage, receptor characteristics, and treatment were analyzed in patients diagnosed with high-risk lesions or breast cancer. Patients were then divided into screened and non-screened groups for statistical analysis.

Results revealed that out of the 230 primary breast cancers, 149 malignancies were diagnosed in the screened group and 81 were in the nonscreened group. Eighty-one percent of the high-risk lesions were detected in the screened group. The mean age for both groups was 45. Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) was diagnosed in 53 patients in the screened group, while the rest of the malignancies were invasive carcinomas. The screened group was significantly more likely than the nonscreened group to be diagnosed for DCIS.

Invasive carcinoma was more likely to be diagnosed at an earlier stage in the screening group. Screened patients with cancer were significantly more likely to receive a diagnosis at earlier stages, to have negative axillary lymph nodes, and to have smaller tumors.

“Our results show multiple benefits of screening mammography in women between the ages of 40 and 49 years,” concluded the study’s authors.