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Screening Mammography helps reduce Breast Cancer Deaths

Screening for breast lumps by doing a mammography can help reduce the death rate from breast cancer, based on a study from Norway reported recently in the New England Journal of Medicine.

According to lead author Mette Kalager, MD, from Oslo University Hospital in Norway, participation in the Norwegian breast cancer screening program was associated with a 10 percent reduction in the rate of death from breast cancer among women 50 to 69 years of age. However, during the period that the study was conducted, Norway built multidisciplinary teams to treat breast cancer, which could also have had an impact on the favorable outcome.

“One third of the mortality reduction we observed in the 20-year period-1986 to 2005–can be associated with the screening program, while two thirds can be attributed to enhanced breast cancer awareness and improved diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer,” Dr. Kalager was quoted.

Previous studies with a follow-up period of 10 years or less have shown similar benefit of screening mammography. A 15 to 23 percent estimated reduction was reported by the United States Preventive Services Task Force.

Another finding in the study was that in women who were in the nonscreening age group (70 to 84 years), the reduction in breast cancer mortality (about eight percent) was largely the same as in the screening group (women 50 to 69 years of age). Dr, Kalager attributed this to the treatment by the multidisciplinary teams of highly specialized radiologists, radiologic technologists, pathologists, surgeons, oncologists, and nurses that managed the patients.

Thus, the 10 percent reduction found in women in the screening age group “is attributed to both the mammograms and management by multidisciplinary teams,” she said.

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