Breast Cancer Patients Boost Survival Rates with Mammography Tests

Scottish investigators have discovered that mammography screening tests improve a breast cancer patient's likelihood of survival. The results were reported in Health Technology Assessment 2011. For breast cancer patients, outcomes continue to improve and many women no longer face recurrence. Women continue to receive regular follow-up appointments for up to 3 years to preemptively detect any possible recurrence.

Lead researcher, Professor Fiona Gilbert of the University of Aberdeen, claims that there still ongoing debate regarding the follow-up processes in terms of frequency and method of detection. Early detection of both primary and secondary cancers can increase a person’s survival chances, but the rate at which they should receive mammographic testing is still unclear.

The researchers began their study to determine the most effective way to examine women following breast cancer treatment. The study examined data regarding safety, efficacy, and frequency through two systematic reviews with surveyed breast surgeons and radiologists selecting current practices and estimating cost-effectiveness. The patient data was modeled from several sources and included data collected from the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit Breast Cancer Registry.

The results of the survey show that though some similarities exist, mammographic surveillance differs from other methods in the areas of start, duration, frequency, and discharge. According to data from systematic reviews, these exams increase a patient’s chances of survival compared to follow-ups that exclude this method. MRIs are the most accurate method for detecting new metastases.

It is still unclear whether combinations of other surveillance methods, such as clinical examination are effective. Data collected suggests that survival rates are higher among women with smaller tumors (less than 10mm in diameter).

Regarding cost-effectiveness, mammographic surveillance was most efficient when it was provided on a 12-month basis and was most suitable for women who had increased chances of developing a secondary or primary tumor, but more cost-effective in 3-year intervals for patients who were unlikely to see another tumor growth.


Professor Gilbert concludes that the results of this research demonstrate that mammographic surveillance is an effective and cost-efficient approach for breast cancer detection. This research has the potential to shape the way in which follow-up protocol can be organized in the future.


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