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New study shows screening boosts breast cancer survival

November 23rd, 2018

mammogramA new UK study has found that women who take part in breast cancer screening have a 60 per cent lower risk of dying from the disease than those who are not screened.

The study, led by researchers at the Queen Mary University of London, also found that women who took part in breast cancer screening within 20 years of diagnosis had a 47 per cent lower risk of dying.

The research, published in peer review journal Cancer, used data sourced from 50,000 women with breast cancer sourced in Sweden. The research team behind the study confirmed that the increase in survival was due to screening occurring at the early detection phase of breast cancer. Women who are screened during this phase generally respond better to treatment than those at later stage breast cancer.

NBCF funded breast cancer screening researcher Associate Professor Sarah Lewis from the University of Sydney described the research as “game-changing and life-saving”.

“We’ve always known that early detection saves lives, but 60 per cent is particularly significant. This number could be hugely beneficial in encouraging women to get regular screenings, which could save their lives,” said A/Prof Lewis.

A/Prof Lewis, who has personally experienced breast cancer herself, is currently working on a major study with Professor Patrick Brennan that aims to improve the screening process by analysing why breast cancer is sometimes missed in mammograms.

“Inherent to our research program is investigating the Gist phenomenon. This is where screens may have no visible signs of cancer, but the radiologist has a sub-second visual instinct that suggests there is something abnormal,” explained A/Prof Lewis.

“This, combined with major technological and educational interventions, means that we will be able to better identify women at a higher risk of future cancers and facilitate early detection and treatment of the disease.”

A/Prof Lewis said that she has seen huge advancements in breast cancer screening research over the past five years, particularly with the integration of technology like big data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a cancer detection and risk tool.

“Ultimately we want to move to a system where breast cancer screening is fully personalised and not a one size fits all approach,” she added.