May 4, 2013 | by Hiu Chung So
With cancer screening, more isn’t necessarily better. This is especially true for patients after a benign breast biopsy, a new study reports.
Researchers found that among 169 women who had undergone a breast screening — including mammograms, ultrasound and breast MRI — within a year of their benign biopsy, only one was found to have breast cancer during the follow-up imaging. Further, no malignancy was found in the subset of 67 women who had undergone multiple screenings during the 12-month period.
The authors also reported that the total cost of imaging these participants is approximately $190,000 — resources that might be more beneficial in other prevention, screening and treatment programs.
The results, from Bryn Mawr Hospital in Pennsylvania, were presented at the 14th annual meeting of the American Society of Breast Surgeons in Chicago on May 2.
These findings come at odds with the current guidelines set by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), which recommend that benign breast biopsies be followed up with routine imaging within six to 12 months.
Study author Andrea Barrio, M.D., told WebMD: “In my practice, I perceived that this short-term imaging did not seem to add anything to the care of the patient.”
The study results support discontinuing NCCN’s guidelines for routine screening, she said.
Providing external commentary in the same WebMD article, Laura Kruper, M.D., director of the Rita Cooper Finkel and J. William Finkel Women's Health Center and head of breast surgery service at City of Hope, agreed with the recommendations to extend screening intervals. But, she added, doctors need to consider the individual patient when making recommendations.
“There are some patients who are going to be so nervous waiting a year” for follow-up imaging, she said.
"I think most women would be fine having repeat imaging in 12 months, but it should be done on a selective basis," Kruper said, adding that a doctor should take into account other factors, such as family history and cancer risk profile, to determine follow-up screening intervals.