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Many women who get mammograms failing to return for routine screenings


A new study finds the number of women getting routine screening mammography may be less than previously reported. The study, published in the October 15, 2005 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, finds as many as one in three women have never had a mammogram or have not had one in more than two years, and that many women have one or two mammograms then fail to return for regular screenings.

While screening mammography has been credited with significant improvements in breast cancer outcomes, the success of campaigns to increase screening use have not shown consistent improvements. In New Hampshire studies assessing use demonstrate that overall use by women 50 years old and older range from 65-82 percent and depend on age. However, these studies rely on self-reporting surveys prone to poor patient recall or single community healthcare facility use.

Registries, like the New Hampshire Mammography Network (NHMN), track actual use by communities, suggesting more accurate data on use. Led by Patricia A. Carney, Ph.D. of the Dartmouth Medical School, researchers compared data from the NHMN registry to the 2000 census for New Hampshire to understand patterns of mammography use in New Hampshire.

The researchers found 36 percent of women 40 and over in New Hampshire had either never had a mammogram or had not had one in over 27 months. Older women over 80 years old were more likely than younger women to not receive screening.

Among those women who had received screening in their lifetime, only 65 percent received routine screening within the recommended one to two year interval. The remaining 35 percent had one or two screening mammograms and did not return with 27 months.

Dr. Carney and her colleagues conclude that "routine mammography screening may be occurring less often than believed when survey data alone are used." They call for further study to explore the reasons women had one or two mammograms only and then did not return for additional screening.

David Greenberg | EurekAlert!
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