More Early-Stage Breast Cancer, But It's Good News

There's been an awful lot of back-and-forth.  Should women get mammograms?  Should they not?  Do mammograms really help?  Or are they just a waste of money?

Now a new study has found that mammography has, indeed, led to fewer late-stage breast cancers, according to newswise.com.

In the last 30 years, since mammography was introduced, late-stage breast cancer incidence has decreased by 37 percent, a new study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center finds.

The analysis takes into account an observed underlying trend of increased breast cancer incidence present since the 1940s, a sort of inflation rate for breast cancer, the Web site reports.

Researchers looked at early-stage and late-stage breast cancer diagnoses between 1977-1979, before mammography became popular, and compared it to diagnoses between 2007-2009. Based on trends observed in the pre-mammography period of the 1940s to the 1970s as well as continued trends over time, the researchers took into account a central estimated increase in breast cancer incidence of 1.3 percent per year.

The result?  The incidence of breast cancer has decreased by a shocking almost 40 percent.  Early-stage breast cancer incidence increased 48 percent from 1977-1979 to 2007-2009, but that may be because we've found better ways to detect it when it's curable.

“When you factor in this temporal trend, our analysis shows that there has been a shift from late-stage to early-stage breast cancer over the last 30 years. This is what you would expect with a successful screening program. Not only are we detecting more early-stage cancer, but we are decreasing the number of late-stage cases that tend to be more challenging to treat and more deadly,” says senior study author Mark Helvie, M.D., professor of radiology and director of breast imaging at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

So get a mammogram?  It's up to you.  But my money -- as an early-stage breast cancer survivor -- is, get it.

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