Legacy study: 70 percent of breast cancer patients under 50 had no risk factors
Study reveals recommendations counseling women to wait until 50 to get annual mammograms leaves much to chance
Click here to watch Dr. Garreau discuss her study.
With each new conflicting mammogram recommendation that comes out, Audrey Stutzer is left wondering “what if?”
“My mom and sisters did not have breast cancer, so if I had listened to the recommendations telling me to start annual screening mammograms at age 50, I would likely not be here today,” said Stutzer who was diagnosed at age 49 with breast cancer.
Stutzer was treated at Legacy Medical Group–Surgical Oncology by surgeons, including Jenn Garreau, M.D., who have treated many women like Stutzer who were diagnosed younger than age 50 after being deemed ”low risk.”
When the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) updated its recommendation stating women deemed “low risk” should start get screening mammograms every other year starting at age 50, Dr. Garreau launched a study to determine how many of Legacy’s breast cancer patients under age 50 were considered “low risk” at the time of diagnosis.
“We found that 70 percent of our breast cancer patients who were younger than 50 had no identifiable risk factors such as family history,” said Dr. Garreau. “This tells us recommendations counseling women to wait until 50 to get annual mammograms leaves much to chance.”
Specifically, Dr. Garreau’s study, which is entitled "Mammogram Screening & Risk in Women 50 Years & Younger," found that 249 women were identified and of those 170 (68 percent) were classified as “low-risk” and only 79 women (32 percent) as high-risk.
Kari Thomas, M.D., a radiologist at Legacy Breast Health Center–Good Samaritan who evaluates mammograms for abnormalities that indicate breast cancer, cites a study published in the August 2017 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Cancer that compared three conflicting recommendations from various medical organizations impact on survival rates of breast cancer:
1. Annual screening from age 40 to 84;
2. Screening annually from age 45 to 54 and then every other year ages 55 to 79 years; and
3. Every other year ages 50 to 74 years.
Corroborating Legacy’s findings, the study found that for women who got annual screening mammograms starting at age 40, risk of mortality decreased by an average of 39.6 percent. This compared with 30.8 percent for those women screened until age 79 and 23 percent for those screened every other year ages 50 to 74.
"Comparing the findings of these two studies side-by-side clearly demonstrates that annual mammography starting at age 40 is the best. "We want to get the message out that one in eight women will get breast cancer but survival is significantly improved and risk for recurrence decreases when caught at an earlier stage."
For more information about Legacy Cancer Institute’s breast health services, click here.
Contact Megan Deisler with media-related questions.
1. Jenn Garreau, M.D., breast surgeon and author of the study entitled, "Mammogram Screening & Risk in Women 50 Years & Younger."
2. A patient getting her annual screening mammogram at Legacy Breast Health Center–Good Samaritan.
3. Kari Thomas, M.D., radiologist at Legacy Breast Health Center–Good Samaritan evaluating mammograms for abnormalities that indicate breast cancer.