Mammography, improved breast cancer care saved as many as 614K lives in US since 1989

Mammography and advances in breast cancer treatment have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of women in the United States over the last three decades, according to new research published by Cancer.

The authors studied breast cancer mortality data and population data for the United States since 1989. Depending on which background mortality assumptions are used, the team found that more than 305,000 or more than 483,000 women’s lives were saved from 1990 to 2015. Extrapolating their results to 2018, the numbers are closer to more than 384,000 or more than 614,000 lives saved.

Looking at 2018 alone, the authors estimated that mammography and various improvements to breast cancer care decreased the expected mortality rate associated with breast cancer by 45.3-58.3 percent.  

“Recent reviews of mammography screening have focused media attention on some of the risks of mammography screening, such as call-backs for additional imaging and breast biopsies, downplaying the most important aspect of screening—that finding and treating breast cancer early saves women's lives,” co-author Edward Hendrick, PhD, of the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, said in a prepared statement. “Our study provides evidence of just how effective the combination of early detection and modern breast cancer treatment have been in averting breast cancer deaths.”

Hendrick noted in the same statement that he hopes this research helps more women seek out the care they need.

“The best possible long-term effect of our findings would be to help women recognize that early detection and modern, personalized breast cancer treatment saves lives and to encourage more women to get screened annually starting at age 40,” he said.