Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Half a million breast cancer deaths have been avoided

Half a million breast cancer deaths have been avoided

Health chiefs have been urged to consider screening such women from 35 after the study concluded that this would find nearly twice as many tumours at an early stage while halving the number that had already spread by the time they were detected.

The Texas A&M Women's Basketball Team is preparing for their Annual Play 4 Kay Breast Cancer Awareness Game.

The major United Kingdom trial concluded annual screening for younger women aged 35-39 who have a family history of breast cancer would be effective in detecting tumours earlier and potentially save thousands of lives.

In total, around 55,000 women and 350 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the United Kingdom and it is estimated that around 5-15% of cases are linked to a family history of the disease. Researchers also found that cancer was less likely to have spread to the lymph nodes if detected early.

"Recent reviews of mammography screening have focused media attention on some of the risks of mammography screening, such as call-backs for additional imaging and breast biopsies, downplaying the most important aspect of screening-that finding and treating breast cancer early saves women's lives".

Cumulative breast cancer deaths averted from 1990 to 2015 ranged from more than 305,000 women to more than 483,000 women depending on different background mortality assumptions. 28 of those discovered were smaller than 2cm in size, 7 had spread to the lymph nodes.

Researchers said annual screening at age 35 to 39 could benefit between 64,000 and 86,000 women in the UK.


Lead author Professor Gareth Evans, from the University of Manchester, said the results of the new trial were "very promising".

However, only about half of women over 40 get regular mammograms.

Baroness Morgan said: "Early detection remains absolutely critical to stopping women dying from breast cancer".

The advances include better understanding of the science behind breast cancer and more targeted treatments.

"Longer-term follow-up is now required to determine the impact of this screening on women's overall survival and any impact on their future risk of primary breast cancer - while health economic analysis will be needed to assess whether such screening could be extended to both "moderate" and "high" risk women". So, if we can intervene earlier for those at higher risk through annual screening, we believe we may be able to stop the disease cutting so many women's lives so heartbreakingly short.

"In the absence of screening, it is so important for women at increased risk to remain breast aware and to report any unusual changes in your breasts to your doctor", she said.

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