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Frequent Mammograms Tied to Lower Risk of Breast Cancer Spread

Patients who had scans at shorter intervals had less lymph node involvement, study found

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An expert not connected with the new study said its focus -- looking not at the risk of death from breast cancer, but the chances of cancer spreading to the lymph nodes -- is a legitimate one.

"If you catch someone with early stage cancer, they are going to need less extensive surgery, and maybe no chemo," said Dr. Laura Kruper, director of the Cooper-Finkel Women's Health Center at the City of Hope Cancer Center, in Duarte, Calif.

"[The new study] adds more power behind the fact that we do need screening mammograms starting at age 40 and every year," she said.

In a second study presented at the meeting, other researchers reported on a new technique that uses focused ultrasound under the MRI guidance to heat and destroy breast cancer tissue.

Researchers at Sapienza University, in Rome, evaluated the treatment in 12 breast cancer patients before surgical removal of their cancer and biopsy of their lymph nodes.

When the researchers looked at the tissue, no sign of tumor was found in 10 of the 12 patients. More research is needed, however, before the technique could be considered as a standalone treatment, the researchers said.

Kruper agreed. The new technique is far from being ready for clinical use, she said. Among the unanswered questions are how the results will stand up over time.

Because both studies were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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