Women who run a high risk of breast cancer can greatly benefit if they are screened for the disease at an early age, a new research has revealed.
The findings, published in current issue of the journal Familial Cancer, suggested that women aged between 35 and 39, who ran a family history of breast cancer and had their cancer detected at an earlier and more easily treatable stage, reported a higher chances of survival.
The study was funded by the charity Breast Cancer Campaign.
For the purpose of the study, researchers at the University of Manchester examined data of 1,500 women who were believed to run a higher risk of breast cancer than the general population.
The researchers identified 47 cases of women with breast cancer and compared the results with counterparts with breast cancer but who had not been screened for the tumors.
Findings revealed that the cancers detected in screened women were significantly smaller and treatable than ones detected by symptoms and not by mammographic screening.
“These results are an exciting first step into stratifying screening to a more targeted group of women at increased risk of breast cancer and show definite benefit, by finding cancers at an early stage where treatment can have most impact,” Professor Gareth Evans, a cancer genetics expert at the University of Manchester, who led the study, said.
As per the current recommendations, routine mammography is not offered until age 50 years as the breast tissue is often dense, leading to ineffective results. However, women who run a family history of the disease or carry specific gene mutations which are known to increase the risk are screened in their 40s.
The findings, if confirmed in the next phase of the project, will prompt changes to the existing recommendations, making mammograms available to younger women at moderate risk.
“This study shines a welcome spotlight on the needs of women who are at an increased risk of breast cancer and living with the uncertainty of their risk but currently without any extra surveillance support,” Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive of Breast Cancer Campaign said.
“Professor Evans’ findings are extremely timely in indicating just how vital breast cancer screening is and how it can be used in a more targeted manner for a large group of women with limited options at their disposal to help prevent and detect the disease. We need every tool we can get to fight this disease.”