Study of More than Half a Million Women Links Regular Mammograms to Much Lower Breast Cancer Mortality

Our doctors always remind us to keep up with routine health screenings. Sometimes we may feel like putting them off, due to time constraints or because we don’t particularly want to go to the doctor. A new study shows just how important it is to make sure you get in those routine breast cancer screenings.

Researchers looked at breast cancer fatalities among nearly 550,000 women eligible for mammogram screening in nine Swedish counties between 1992 and 2016. They found that for women who had attended their past two routine screenings before a breast cancer diagnosis, the chances of them dying of the illness within ten years was nearly 50 percent lower than women who hadn’t gone to either screening. The findings were published in the journal Radiology on March 2.

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Stephen Duffy, lead author and professor at Queen Mary University of London’s Wolfson Institute, says, “While there is ample evidence that breast cancer mortality is reduced in those who attend screening, these results demonstrate that repeated attendance confers greater protection than attendance at a single screen. We need to ensure that the screening experience is as stress-free as possible, so that people will come back.”

The study found a sizeable benefit in those who had attended both screenings over those who had attended just one. They still saw a 22 to 33 percent lower 10-year mortality rate. Compared with those who had not attended either appointment, women who went to at least one had a 25 to 36 percent lower risk of dying.

The authors noted that there have been other studies conducted throughout Sweden using the same database that have shown similar benefits to women who have been regularly screened for breast cancer.

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László Tabár, the study’s principal investigator and professor at Falun Central Hospital, Sweden, says, “This comprehensive study is the result of a long-term cooperative effort of the physicians and other professional staff in nine Swedish counties, all of whom were trained in the Falun School. The analysis of the massive dataset was masterfully handled by the statisticians of the Swedish Organized Service Screening Evaluation Group. This work adds additional evidence confirming the value of early detection of breast cancer through regular attendance at mammography screening, helping women and their physicians make informed decisions.”

The study notes that in Sweden, women are invited to a screening with a letter and a prebooked appointment. During the time that this study took place, from 1992 to 2016, women between the ages of 40 and 54 were invited to get a mammogram every 18 months, while those between 55 and 69 were invited to do so every 24 months.

PHOTO: PIXABAY/SILVIARITA

Guidelines within the United States differ, with some agencies recommending regular screenings begin as early as 40 or as late as 50. Many recommend getting a mammogram every two years once a woman reaches 50 or 55. To see what works best for you and your family history, be sure to speak with your doctor.

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