Researchers at the University of California San Francisco found that women diagnosed with “dense” breast tissue during their routine mammography screening do not necessarily have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.
Scientists also suggest that the condition does not automatically require additional X-ray, MRI or ultrasounds examinations.
The new findings come at odds with conclusions of a cohort of other studies that had linked higher density of breast tissue with heightened cancer risk.
Previous research had shown that dense breast only made it harder for doctors to detect cancerous tumors at their early stages. So, investigators were highly recommended to perform additional tests beside mammography or X-ray tests.
But California researchers claim that their extensive study conducted on more than 360,000 women of all ages shows the real odds of developing cancer if women are diagnosed with dense breast tissue.
According to their paper, only 24 percent of those women were exposed to a high risk of breast cancer, but the disease emerged only if there are additional cancer risks such as smoking, contraceptive pill use, unhealthy life style, family history, aging, and so on.
Karla Kerlikowske, co-author of the study and cancer expert at San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, recommends that doctors don’t immediately jump to another series of tests to confirm a cancer diagnosis.
Researchers explained that women diagnosed with dense breast tissue after a mammography but had a low chance of developing cancer in the previous five years had “low” chance of developing breast cancer within the next year.
But whether to subject a woman with dense breast tissue to additional screening tests after she underwent a mammography is an ancient debate.
More than 20 states have rules that sanction doctors if they fail to discuss with their female patients the possibility of extra imaging tests after their mammogram showed a high breast density.
Currently, even a federal law is in plan. Yet, California researchers claim that such measures risk being “overcautious.” They also argue that nearly 50 percent of female population is diagnosed with dense breast tissue. So, screening them again is both unrealistic and costly.
The research team also argues that breast density tissue is a very “subjective” diagnosis since it is determined by the doctors that interpret a mammogram. So, researchers think that requesting breast screening tests more than once a year, like many states do, is unnecessary.
Moreover, they learned that only 12 percent of women who underwent a mammography test require additional tests.
The report on the findings was published in the latest issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
Image Source: Huffington Post
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