Menopausal women on hormone therapy (HT) should not stop their treatment prior to their annual mammogram screenings, researchers have indicated.
Annual mammography screening significantly reduces the breast cancer mortality in women older than 50, and is considered a pillar of routine healthcare maintenance.
While subjective and objective increases in mammographic breast density have been reported in up to 30 percent of postmenopausal women taking HT, the majority of women in this age group have low breast densities to start with and the magnitude of the increase with HT is small in most.
Moreover, improvements in screening technologies (digital mammography) have shown promise in overcoming hindrances in denser breasts.
It is thus extremely unlikely that a minor increase in density is going to mask the mammographic detection of any early breast cancer if present.
"We do not believe everyone on HT should consider stopping treatment one to two months prior to their mammogram," said lead author Dr Raja Sayegh, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at BUSM.
"Such a practice is likely to precipitate the recurrence of nuisance symptoms for which most menopausal women take HT nowadays, with no convincing evidence of improved screening accuracy.
"While there may be other good reasons to consider stopping HT, improving the mammographic detection of early cancers should not be one of them," he added.
While writing in Journal of the North American Menopause Society, the researchers recommend that health care providers should alert their HT patients to the possibility of an augmented mammographic density, or other artifacts, that may require additional evaluation.