The benefits of mammography are not limited to women of ages older than 50 years

Ruth Heimann, Jeffrey Bradley, Samuel Hellman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    20 Scopus citations


    BACKGROUND. Although the benefits of mammography are established in women age ≤ 50 years, its use in women age < 50 years is controversial. It is the purpose of this study to determine whether the better outcome in mammographically detected breast carcinoma compared with clinically detected breast carcinoma observed in women age ≤ 50 years also is observed in women age < 50 years. METHODS. The authors analyzed 869 cases of Stage I and II breast carcinoma in women treated with breast-conserving therapy between 1984-1994. The median follow-up was 43 months (range, 3-128 months). Three hundred and eighteen patients (37%) presented with mammographic abnormalities without clinical signs of disease and 551 patients (63%) presented with clinical signs of disease. The median age of the patients was 56 years (range, 22-88 years). Three hundred and four patients (35%) were age < 50 years. RESULTS. Mammographically detected tumors in women age < 50 years were of similar size to those in women age ≤ 50 years (median 1.1 cm vs. 1.0 cm). Axillary lymph node involvement and tumor grade were not significantly different between these two groups. However, in women age < 50 years the clinically detected tumors were found to be significantly larger, more likely to be axillary lymph node positive, and of higher grade compared with tumors in older women. Consequently, in patients with mammographically detected tumors, there was no significant difference in recurrence free survival (RFS) between women age < 50 years compared with women age ≤ 50 years (90% and 92%, respectively; P = 0.4), whereas in patients with clinically detected tumors there was a significant difference in 5-year RFS (77% vs. 87%, respectively; P = 0.02). CONCLUSIONS. Mammography results in the diagnosis of smaller and lower grade breast carcinoma. If mammographically detected, there appears to be no difference in RFS between women age < 50 years and those women age ≤ 50 but there is a difference if the tumors are clinically detected. If left to grow to the size necessary for clinical detectability, the disease appears to be more aggressive in younger women.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2221-2226
    Number of pages6
    Issue number11
    StatePublished - Jun 1 1998


    • Age
    • Breast carcinoma
    • Mammography
    • Recurrence
    • Survival


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