Only half of breast cancer survivors get annual mammograms post-surgery

Contrary to breast screening recommendations, new research suggests that breast cancer survivors are not getting the recommended number of mammograms post-surgery, according to a new study published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (JNCCN).  

Led by Kathryn Ruddy, MD, MPH, director of cancer survivorship for the department of oncology at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, researchers found that only half of insured breast cancer survivors get consistent annual mammograms for early-detection of breast cancer recurrence.  

They also found that African-American breast cancer survivors were less likely than white breast cancer survivors to receive mammograms annually, potentially contributing to higher mortality rates for African-American women.  

"The use of regular mammograms to detect a return of breast cancer before any symptoms appear is associated with better overall survival," Ruddy said in a prepared statement.  "Therefore, clinicians need to make sure that their patients are fully aware of the role these annual mammograms play in screening for new breast cancers as well as for local recurrences. Creating and implementing survivorship care plans with clear follow-up instructions may help ensure that more survivors adhere to recommended screening schedules." 

Ruddy and her colleagues followed over 27,000 patients for an average of almost three years after breast cancer surgery, with 4,790 patients being followed for at least five years.   

Only 50 percent of the patients who were followed for at least five years had at least one mammogram each of those five years, according to the researchers.  

"This lack of imaging follow-up represents a missed opportunity for identifying recurrent or new breast cancers among a high-risk patient subgroup," said Benjamin Anderson, MD, FACS, vice-chair for the NCCN Guidelines Panel for Breast Cancer. "Of equal importance, this finding illustrates that our healthcare system can fail to track sizable groups of cancer patients after completion of treatment."