Screening Mammography Rates Drop in Breast Cancer Survivors
Rates of screening mammograms among women who’ve received breast cancer treatment have declined since 2009, especially among women ages 40 to 49, according to a study.
The research was published on April 1, 2022, by the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Read “Trends in Annual Surveillance Mammography Participation Among Breast Cancer Survivors From 2004 to 2016.”
Screening mammogram guidelines
Professional organizations have different mammogram guidelines for women with an average risk of developing breast cancer. But all these organizations recommend that women who’ve received breast cancer treatment have at least one mammogram each year. Annual mammograms among survivors look for breast cancer that has come back (called recurrence by doctors), as well as a new cancer.
About the study
The researchers looked at a national database of insurance claims for annual mammograms from 2004 to 2016 among 141,672 women ages 40 to 64 who had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Overall, annual mammogram rates dropped from 74.1% in 2004 to 67.1% in 2016. Almost all of the decrease happened between 2009 and 2016.
When the researchers looked at specific age groups, they found that younger women were less likely to have an annual mammogram than older women. Annual mammogram rates were about the same for both age groups from 2004 to 2009. From 2009 to 2016, annual mammogram rates declined by twice as much in younger women:
In 2004, 74.4% of women ages 50 to 64 had an annual mammogram versus 67.9% in 2016.
In 2004, 70.4% of women ages 40 to 49 had an annual mammogram versus 57.1% in 2016.
Women who saw a breast cancer specialist or primary care doctor within the previous year were no more likely to have an annual mammogram than women who hadn’t seen a doctor.
“I was surprised that we saw declines in mammography use among patients who were continuing to see their cancer specialists,” lead researcher Kathryn P. Lowry, MD, assistant professor of radiology at the University of Washington, said in a statement. “It suggests we are seeing less frequent mammography participation even among those who are otherwise engaged in their cancer care. Our findings suggest we need to reinforce the importance of annual mammograms with our patients who have had breast cancer. We also need additional studies to better understand the barriers that are leading to fewer mammograms.
“Most people do quite well after completing their treatment for breast cancer, however some will have a recurrence of their prior cancer or develop a new breast cancer,” she continued. “Mammography is an important tool for detecting these cancers earlier, when they are smaller and more easily treated.”
What this means for you
The results of this study are concerning.
If you’ve received treatment for early-stage breast cancer, it’s very important to talk with your doctor about a breast cancer screening plan tailored to your unique situation. Screening plans are likely to be more aggressive than average so your doctor can monitor for any breast cancer recurrence or a new breast cancer. Your plan may include frequent exams by your doctor, breast self-exams, mammograms, or other imaging tests, such as MRI.
Sticking to your screening plan is just as important as making the plan. After you finish initial treatment, it may be tempting to skip some follow-up screening tests. But remember there’s only one of you, and you deserve the best care possible.
Learn more about Mammograms.
Written by: Jamie DePolo, senior editor
— Last updated on July 14, 2022, 4:44 PM