A new study questions the need for yearly mammograms among women ages 50 to 74, suggesting having one of the imaging tests every two years might be just as beneficial. This, researchers at University of California San Francisco say, applies even to women who have dense breasts.

It’s a big study, taken from a database of 900,000 U.S. women. The result is surprising because, according to study author Dr. Karla Kerlikowske, increasing age and high breast density are among the strongest risk factors for the disease.

Still, the study concluded women ages 50 to 74 with dense breasts or history of hormone replacement who screen every two years with mammography have the same risk of advanced stage disease and fewer false positive findings than those undergoing annual screening mammography.

I asked local expert Kathy Schilling, M.D., medical director, Christine E. Lynn Women's Health and Wellness Institute, to help put these findings into a more personal perspective. She says the bottom line is early treatment saves lives, and most women want to find breast cancer early and address it. And, for especially women with dense breasts, mammography is not the only way to detect breast cancer in its early stages.

Here is the rest of her response:

Mammography is the only test that has been shown in rigorous scientific randomized controlled trials to actually save lives in women who develop breast cancer.

Critics of screening cite potential costs which include pain, radiation exposure, sense of false reassurance from a negative study and potential anxiety, which may result from over-diagnosis or over-treatment, as reasons not to include screening mammography in a women’s diagnostic regimen.

It is well known that women with high breast density may present with advanced disease due to limited sensitivity of mammography. However, rather than eliminating the screening, we have found at the Christine Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute that supplementing mammography with ultrasound, MRI or molecular breast imaging has resulted in detecting up to three times more cancer in these patients above that is found with mammography. These cancers are typically early, easily treated disease.

So, should we not recognize our limitations with mammography and offer additional screening, rather than throwing our hands up and saying less mammography is as good as more mammography in this population with a bad disease with a bad outcome?

Women need to understand their personal risk to include their mammographic breast density and devise a personalized surveillance plan to assure the diagnosis of breast cancer as early as possible. Early detection, although not perfect, has repeatedly demonstrated to reduce deaths from breast cancer and the risk of over-diagnosis is small compared with this tremendous benefit. Risk assessment is available for any woman at Christine Lynn Women’s Health & Wellness Institute.

Good news from Delray Medical Center

Delray Medical Center has achieved the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Heart Failure and Stroke Gold Plus Quality achievement awards for its excellence in the treatment of patients with heart failure and stroke. Get With The Guidelines is a quality improvement initiative, which provides hospital staff with tools that follow proven evidence-based guidelines shown to improve care results, prevent future hospitalizations and prolong life.

In other Delray Medical Center news, Jason Call, an emergency room nurse there, has been honored with the DAISY award. Call was nominated by a patient and recognized for clinical excellence and compassionate patient care. The DAISY Award for Extraordinary Nurses recognizes the outstanding deeds nurses perform every day. It was created by the DAISY Foundation, which was founded in memory of J. Patrick Barnes by his family members after they experienced firsthand the skills and compassionate caring of their son’s nurses.

Delray Medical Center is at 5352 Linton Blvd, Delray Beach. For more information, call 561-498-4440 or visit www.delraymedicalctr.com.

About Lisette:

Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has had the luxury of reporting on health, fitness and other hot topics for more than 23 years. The long-time Boca Raton resident, University of Florida graduate and fitness buff writes for local, regional and national publications and websites. Find out more on www.wordscomealive.com.