• Cancer

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Why breast cancer survivors need mammograms

Breast cancer survivors are not getting the recommended number of mammograms following surgery, according to a recent study led by Dr. Kathryn Ruddy, a Mayo Clinic oncologist. The mammogram screening study found that one year after surgery, 13 percent of breast cancer survivors had not followed up with any breast imaging. And only 50 percent of patients followed mammogram screening recommendations  at least five years after surgery.

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Getting an annual mammogram may be uncomfortable, but it also can save lives, including those of breast cancer survivors. Dr. Ruddy says the problem is many breast cancer survivors are not getting the recommended screenings – especially younger women and black women.

"Black women were less likely to have mammograms than white women. This is a concern and may be contributing to the poorer prognoses we see in black women with breast cancer," says Dr. Ruddy.

Dr. Ruddy says clinicians need to help patients coordinate their tests better. And she hopes survivorship care plans may help improve the rate of mammograms, as well.

"These [survivorship care plans] are documents that describe for a patient at the end of cancer care what the diagnosis was, what were the treatments received, and what to do going forward," says Dr. Ruddy.

As uncomfortable as a mammogram might be, Dr. Ruddy wants breast cancer survivors to know, "If they have breast tissue left, it is really important that we both screen for recurrence and also look for new cancers.”