New mathematical model predicts live-saving benefits of different screening schedules
Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston have devised a mathematical tool that predicts how the frequency of mammograms affects the number of lives saved by detecting breast cancers at an earlier stage. With screening guidelines and financial coverage varying among health systems and insurers – sometimes dramatically – the model provides quantitative predictions of the mortality benefits, on average, in populations of women over the course of 40 years.
"Were not advocating any particular interval for mammography screening," says Sandra Lee, ScD, a biostatistician at Dana-Farber who developed the model along with Marvin Zelen, PhD, of Dana-Farber and the Harvard School of Public Health. "This is a preliminary tool to show policymakers the kind of information they can draw on to help them make decisions."
Women who have a higher breast cancer risk because of their family history are advised to begin mammography at an early age. Using the model, say the researchers, health care providers can determine when to schedule mammograms depending on the amount of a womans extra risk.
The model also provides estimates of the relative costs incurred by screening populations of women at greater or lesser intervals – an important issue for health policymakers.
Richard Saltus | EurekAlert!
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