Many Women Get Unnecessary Mammograms Before Breast Reduction Surgery

Getting a mammogram before breast reduction surgery is not required or recommended. But thousands of younger women with no known breast cancer risk still get them, a new study suggests.

Although the pre-surgical screening has been a longtime practice among physicians, no professional society recommends routine screening until a woman turns 40.

Erika D. Sears, MD, MS, a Michigan Medicine plastic surgeon who studies appropriateness and efficiency in health care, wondered how often the practice takes place.

Her new study, published in JAMA Surgery, found that nearly one-third of women younger than 40 underwent mammography before breast reduction surgery. Health services researchers culled the records of 52,486 women of all ages being evaluated for breast reduction between 2009 and 2015.

Few may realize the unnecessary screenings come at a price — and not just a monetary one that adds to the nation’s health care bill, Sears says.

“Altering screening mammography for patients younger than 40 years in the setting of evaluation for breast surgery has a risk for subsequent tests and invasive procedures,” says Sears, also an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Michigan.

The study showed 30 percent of women ages 30 to 39 had mammograms before breast reduction surgery, a rate five times higher than that of other women their age.

About 4 percent of women ages 29 and younger received mammograms as they considered breast reduction — compared with 0.2 percent of the population of millennial women.

When performing the analysis, researchers had excluded women whose medical records indicated a personal or family history of breast cancer, genetic predisposition or prior benign breast disease — although there’s a chance the risk existed but wasn’t noted in their records, explains a media release from Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan.

Among the women in their 30s who had mammograms before breast reduction surgery, 14 percent went on to have an MRI, ultrasonography, or a biopsy in which breast tissue or fluid is removed for laboratory testing.

Cancer was found in only 0.5 percent of the women, the study showed.

That finding could help shift the conversation on both sides.

“I think that if there’s more awareness among patients, they may be motivated to have a conversation with their doctor about whether screening mammography is right for them,” Sears says. “It’s also about education on the provider’s part about the downstream impact of future testing that women may experience.”

[Source(s): Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, Science Daily]