Study says mammograms do save women's lives

accreditation

There's good news for women: Getting a mammogram regularly can cut their odds of advanced and sometimes fatal breast cancers, a new study says.

European researchers tracked data from nearly 550 000 women in Sweden who were eligible for mammography screening.

The team compared rates of advanced and breast cancers that were fatal within 10 years after diagnosis for women who got mammograms and those who didn't.

The result: Compared to the women who didn't get mammograms, those who did had a 25% lower rate of advanced breast cancer and a 41% lower rate of breast cancers that went on to be deadly within 10 years.

Cuts the risk of dying

The study was published earlier in May in the journal Cancer.

"This study shows that participation in breast cancer screening substantially reduces the risk of having fatal breast cancer," study co-author Stephen Duffy, of Queen Mary University of London, said in a journal news release.

Earlier studies had suggested a real health benefit to mammograms, but some experts thought that benefit may have been due to improvements in breast cancer care, not the advent of mammography. However, Duffy and his colleagues believe their study got around that potential confounder.

Because the study participants were tracked for both mammography screening and breast cancer treatment over the same period of time, the results are "not affected by potential changes in treatment of breast cancer over time", Duffy noted.

So, the research suggests that mammography cuts the risk of dying from breast cancer above and beyond what can be achieved with current therapies, emphasised study co-author Dr Laszlo Tabar, of Falun Central Hospital in Sweden.

"Some may believe that recent improvements in breast cancer treatment make early detection less important," he said in the news release, but "our study shows that nothing can replace finding breast cancer early."

Guidelines relaxed

Two US breast cancer experts agreed that the message for women is clear.

"Screening catches cancers earlier and decreases the incidences of advanced cancers and deaths – get your mammogram," said Dr Alice Police. She is regional director of breast surgery at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Sleepy Hollow, New Year.

Police noted that in recent years, some guidelines have been relaxed regarding the timing of mammograms. For example, in 2016, the influential US Preventive Services Task Force upped the age for first mammogram for women from a prior recommended age of 40 to 50 years of age, for women at average risk. Women in their 40s should talk to their doctor about their use of mammography screening, and the decision "should be an individual one", the expert panel said.

But Police believes the new study "proves [again] that screening is important to reduce the rates of advanced and fatal breast cancers and should start at age 40".

Dr Kristin Byrne is chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She said "the conclusions of the study are very clear and reaffirms the significant importance of screening mammography in detecting a breast cancer when it is small and it has not spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere.

"This is why it is so important for women 40 and over to have yearly screening mammograms as long as they are in good health," Byrne stressed. "Women at high risk may need to start [even] younger and should discuss it with their doctors."

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
12% - 889 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
43% - 3195 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
41% - 3079 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 298 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.26
+2.0%
Rand - Pound
19.89
+0.7%
Rand - Euro
16.79
+0.9%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.49
+0.5%
Rand - Yen
0.12
+0.1%
Gold
1,795.21
+0.1%
Silver
20.65
+0.6%
Palladium
2,240.50
+0.8%
Platinum
941.50
+0.4%
Brent Crude
96.31
-0.4%
Top 40
63,304
-0.7%
All Share
69,929
-0.5%
Resource 10
64,632
-0.6%
Industrial 25
84,965
-1.0%
Financial 15
15,742
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE