Optimising imaging surveillance for women in complete remission after primary treatment for breast cancer

Start Year: 2010
Finish Year: 2012
Chief Investigator: Dr Taryn Bessen
Grant Type: Fellowships
Institution: University of Adelaide

Doctoral Research Scholarship

Due to early diagnosis and improved treatment, the number of breast cancer survivors is increasing. All of these women will need follow-up mammography to detect recurrent or new disease that is potentially curable. Despite this, we do not know how often or how long we should continue to perform mammography after breast cancer has been successfully treated.

The United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence made a specific recommendation in their 2009 guidelines, ‘Early and locally advanced breast cancer: diagnosis and treatment’, that research is needed into the optimal frequency and length of surveillance of follow-up mammography.

This project  addresses this problem by examining the records of all women who were treated for early breast cancer in South Australia between 2000-2004 and who were in complete remission after their initial treatment. Dr Bessen will collect information on the X-ray and other imaging tests that these women had during their follow-up and on their clinical outcomes with respect to reappearance or development of a new breast cancer.

This project examines the longer-term costs and benefits of alternative follow-up imaging strategies as well as exploring whether these costs and benefits are different in different subsets of patients (high and low risk groups). The study aims to predict the best schedule for follow-up mammograms for women who are in complete remission from breast cancer and to individualise the schedule according to each woman’s risk of recurrence. This will make sure potentially curable disease will be detected as early as possible without causing anxiety from too frequent surveillance.