NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Doctors at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Waterford look at family and medical history as well as mammogram images when women get their annual screenings. Sometimes doctors spot an area that looks abnormal.
“Occasionally there are asymmetries in the breast tissue or distortion of the breast tissue, or masses or calcifications that require additional workup,” says Dr. Anca Bulgaru, a Medical Oncologist at Smilow.
That requires a call back, which can create a lot of anxiety in the patient.
Dr. Bulgaru says tomosynthesis, or 3D mammograms, have now decreased the rate of callbacks by more than 30 percent. The high-tech images are also able to detect breast cancer early. She says that reduces the rate of death by 20 percent.
She says of the callbacks, just a very small number of women need further examination.
“Only one to two percent of all patients undergoing screening mammograms end up having a biopsy and 60 percent of those would end up having no evidence of cancer,” says Dr. Bulgaru.
Dr. Meena Moran is a Professor of Therapeutic Radiology and Director of the Yale Breast Radiotherapy Program. She says that radiation is very effective, targeted and better tolerated than it was 20 years ago. She says that lumpectomies can be very effective.
“Women think that the breast needs to be removed, when they have cancer they want it removed and so the incidence of mastectomies has gone up over the last ten years or so but in actuality outcomes with breast conservation are just as good if not slightly better,” she adds.
Dr. Moran says that’s because women fear the breast cancer will come back.
And while mammograms are extremely important so is a self breast exam or physical exam by a doctor, doctors say 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers are discovered through this method, which is why it should be done on a regular basis.