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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Childhood Cancer Survivors Skip Breast Screenings

Many Women Who Survived Cancer in Childhood Forgo Breast Cancer Screenings Despite Increased Risk


Among women 40 to 50 who had received chest radiation for childhood cancer:

  • They were more likely to have had mammograms than those aged 25 to 39.
  • About two-thirds (76.5%) had a screening mammogram in the past two years (compared with 70% for women who did not receive chest radiation during childhood and 67% for siblings without history of childhood cancer).
  • Slightly more than half (52%) had regular breast cancer screenings. (This finding was not significantly higher than those who never had chest radiation.)

Overall findings:

  • Older women were more likely to undergo breast cancer screening in the past two years or to have received regular screening.
  • The chances a woman would report having a mammogram jumped nearly twofold for every five-year increase in age.

"Findings from this study should provide the foundation for targeted interventions involving both clinicians and cancer survivors," the authors conclude.

An accompanying editorial written by doctors in the United Kingdom emphasizes the need for well-designed programs to provide ongoing education for women and their doctors about the risks of breast cancer after childhood chest radiotherapy.

Aliki J. Taylor, MD, PhD, MPH, of the University of Birmingham in Enlgand, and Roger E. Taylor, MD, MA, of Swansea University in Wales also encourage future studies to determine if exposure to radiation during mammography increases the cancer risk for these women, and to explore breast MRI as a possible alternative. They also suggest investigating whether more women in this high-risk group would undergo breast cancer screening if it were provided at no cost.

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