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Study: Less Late-Stage Breast Cancer In Mammogram Era

June 11, 2014
Written by: , Filed in: Breast Imaging
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Between 1979, before screening mammography became widespread, and 2009, according to a new study led by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, late-stage breast cancer in the United States has decreased by somewhere around 37 percent.

The researchers took into account a general increase in breast cancer cases that has been observed worldwide, even in countries that have no routine screening mammography. If you figure the annual percentage change (APC) at 1.3 percent, the researchers said, then the decrease in late-stage breast cancer is 37 percent. They also ran the numbers using APC estimates of 0.5 percent, 1.0 percent, and 2.0 percent, generating estimates of the decrease in late-stage breast cancer that ranged from 21 percent (using an APC of 0.5 percent) to 48 percent (using 2.0 percent).

Mark A. Helvie, MD, senior author of the study, said the conclusion seemed clear:

When you factor in this temporal trend, our analysis shows that there has been a shift from late-stage to early-stage breast cancer over the last 30 years. This is what you would expect with a successful screening program.

Dr. Helvie is professor of radiology and director of breast imaging at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. He was quoted in a news release from the center. An article about the findings was published online last month in Cancer.

Breast cancer screening via mammography became widespread after the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Detection Demonstration Project of the 1970s. Using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program, the researchers compared the incidence and stages of breast cancer detected in 1977–1979 with those from 2007–2009.

The researchers found that while the incidence of ductal carcinoma in situ, which is noninvasive, increased during the study period, the incidence of invasive breast cancer decreased—by 9 percent, assuming an APC of 1.3 percent.

“Not only are we detecting more early-stage cancer,” said Dr. Helvie, “but we are decreasing the number of late-stage cases that tend to be more challenging to treat and more deadly.”

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Related CME seminar (up to 25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): The Breast Imaging and Intervention: A Comprehensive Review

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