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Clinical Management of BRCA Mutation Carriers



In the general population, strong evidence suggests that regular mammography screening of women aged 50 to 59 years leads to a 25% to 30% reduction in breast cancer mortality. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Breast Cancer Screening for more information.) For women who begin mammographic screening at age 40 to 49 years, a 17% reduction in breast cancer mortality is seen, which occurs 15 years after the start of screening.[10] Observational data from a cohort study of more than 28,000 women suggest that the sensitivity of mammography is lower for young women. In this study, the sensitivity was lowest for younger women (aged 30-49 years) who had a first-degree relative with breast cancer. For these women, mammography detected 69% of breast cancers diagnosed within 13 months of the first screening mammography. By contrast, sensitivity for women younger than 50 years without a family history was 88% (P = .08). For women aged 50 years and older, sensitivity was 93% at 13 months and did not vary by family history.[11] Preliminary data suggest that mammography sensitivity is lower in BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers than in noncarriers.[8] Subsequent observational studies have found that the positive predictive value (PPV) of mammography increases with age and is highest among older women and among women with a family history of breast cancer.[12] Higher PPVs may be due to increased breast cancer incidence, higher sensitivity, and/or higher specificity.[13] One study found an association between the presence of pushing margins (a histopathologic description of a pattern of invasion) and false-negative mammograms in 28 women, 26 of whom had a BRCA1 mutation and two of whom had a BRCA2 mutation. Pushing margins, characteristic of medullary histology, are associated with an absence of fibrotic reaction.[14] In addition, rapid tumor doubling times may lead to tumors presenting shortly after an apparently normal study. In one study, mean tumor doubling time in BRCA1/BRCA2 carriers was 45 days, compared with 84 days in noncarriers.[15] Another study that evaluated mammographic breast density in women with BRCA mutations found no association between mutation status and mammographic density; however, in both carriers and noncarriers, increased breast density was associated with increased breast cancer risk.[16]

The randomized Canadian National Breast Screening Study-2 (NBSS2) compared annual CBE plus mammography to CBE alone in women aged 50 to 59 years from the general population. Both groups were given instruction in BSE.[17] Although mammography detected smaller primary invasive tumors and more invasive and ductal carcinomas in situ (DCIS) than CBE, the breast cancer mortality rates in the CBE-plus-mammography group and the CBE- alone group were nearly identical, and compared favorably with other breast cancer screening trials. After a mean follow-up of 13 years (range 11.3-16.0 years), the cumulative breast cancer mortality ratio was 1.02 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.78-1.33). One possible explanation of this finding was the careful training and supervision of the health professionals performing CBE.


WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: May 16, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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