If you've been diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer and are having lumpectomy, you and your doctor likely will develop a screening plan that's more aggressive than average to find any cancer recurrence or a new, second breast cancer. Your plan may include frequent exams by your doctor, breast self-exams, mammograms, or other imaging tests, such as MRI. The study reviewed here suggests that two mammograms per year after surgery may make sense. Sticking with your screening plan is just as important as making the plan. After your treatment is done, you may be tempted to skip some follow-up screening tests. Don't -- there's only one of you, and you and your future deserve the best care possible.
It's also important to do all you can to lower your risk of recurrence or a new, second breast cancer. Visit
the Breastcancer.org Lowering Risk for People with a Personal History page to learn more.
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SAN DIEGO (MedPage Today) -- Breast cancer patients who had recurrences after lumpectomy had less
advanced recurrent tumors if they adhered to a semiannual mammography schedule, data from a large
retrospective case review showed.
Semiannual screening was associated with an almost 30% increase in the proportion of recurrences detected
in stages 0 or 1 compared with annual follow-up, according to a presentation here at the American
Roentgen Ray Society meeting.
Additionally, recurrences detected by more frequent mammograms tended to be 25% smaller, according to
Vignesh Arasu, MD, of the University of California San Francisco, and colleagues. "Our results are not definitive proof that more frequent mammographic surveillance will improve outcomes, but they do suggest that these women may need to be treated differently from women in the general population who have average risk," Arasu said in an interview.
Between 10% and 20% of breast cancer patients have recurrences or new primary tumors in the ipsilateral breast after lumpectomy. Recurrent disease increases the risk of breast cancer mortality by as much as 300% compared with the initial tumor, said Arasu.
The optimal frequency of mammographic follow-up after lumpectomy has not been determined, although many patients have annual mammography.
"Most national organizations recommend annual mammograms beginning at age 40 for average-risk women," said Arasu. "Women who have been treated for cancer have a much higher risk of breast cancer than the general population. It makes no sense that they would follow the same mammography schedule as women with no history of breast cancer."
To examine the influence of mammogram frequency on outcomes, Arasu and colleagues reviewed the experience with their institution's post-lumpectomy surveillance protocol, which calls for semiannual mammography of the ipsilateral breast for the first five years after breast-conserving surgery.
Investigators reviewed records on patients who had conservative breast cancer surgery from 1997 through 2008. Mammography intervals of four to nine months were considered adherent with the institutional protocol, and intervals of nine months or more were considered nonadherent.
The primary outcome was mammographically identified ipsilateral breast cancer.
The analysis included 10,750 mammography examinations in 2,329 patients. Abnormalities were identified in 158 (1.5%) of the mammograms, leading to detection of 114 cancers and a positive biopsy rate of 72%.
The mammographic examinations consisted of 7,140 (84.8%) exams that met criteria for compliance and 1,281 judged to be noncompliant, including 1,065 that investigators considered representative of annual surveillance.
Arasu reported that 94% of cancers detected by semiannual surveillance mammography were stage 0 or 1 compared with 73% of cancers detected by annual mammography (P=0.021). The overall rates of earlystage disease included 90% versus 64% stage 1 (P=0.036) and 78% versus 53% minimal disease (P=0.059).
Semiannual mammography detected tumors that had a median size of 11.7 mm compared with 15.3 mm for annual surveillance (P=0.148). Additionally, 98% of new cancers identified by semiannual surveillance were node negative compared with 91% of cancers identified by annual surveillance (P=0.276).
"Obviously, the outcome of greatest interest is survival, but that takes many years of follow-up in thousands of women to assess," Arasu told MedPage Today. "What we can do is look at predictors of survival. One of the predictors is the size or stage of the cancer recurrence, just as it is in primary breast cancer. The bigger the recurrent tumor, the worse the outcome is. Our results sort of imply what the outcomes are."
Arasu reported no disclosures.
Primary source: American Roentgen Ray Society Source reference: Arasu V, et al "Outcomes analysis of
semiannual ipsilateral mammography surveillance following breast conservation therapy: 12-year
experience" ARRS 2010; Abstract 109.