Women diagnosed with breast cancer no doubt receive best possible treatment for the deadly disease following the first one-year of treatment. It is recommended that such women receive a follow-up mammogram, to assess the treatment outcome. This is to a large extent ignored by most early-stage breast cancer survivors, according to a latest study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
Such mammograms can go a long way in the identification of any adverse effects associated with the cancer treatment and the early detection of secondary cancer, if any. Further, it can ensure that the breast cancer remains in remission. Currently, 815 breast cancer survivors exist for every 100,000 women in the United States.
Researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center analyzed the primary treatment given to women with either stage I or stage II breast cancer. The study participants were required to provide extensive information about the health care provided following one year of treatment. Nearly 558 women were recruited for the study, out of which 391 were able to provide the requested information.
A close examination of the data revealed that the breast cancer survivors on an average utilized health care services approximately 30 times on an average compared to the general public. Visits to the cancer clinic were found to account for a major proportion of the treatment cost.
Furthermore, variations in the treatment strategies and costs, based on diverse geographic locations were documented. The presence of other concomitant diseases, the physical and mental health status (depression) of the cancer patient, was found to play a major role in determining the treatment modality. These factors were associated with increased visits and treatment costs.
Despite the fact that all these women should have had a mammography following the first one-year of treatment, only 62% of those studied were found to have had a mammogram. Comparatively, women treated by lumpectomy were more likely to have a mammogram than those with a history of mastectomy. The same effect was observed in white and nonwhite women. This could be attributed to a better educational status and increased health awareness among white women.
The results of the present study have several valuable implications. First, it highlights the existing lacunae in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, amongst the so-called developed countries. Secondly, it necessitates an improvement in the use of mammography for monitoring breast cancer treatment. Finally, it must be ensured that all breast cancer survivors should be encouraged to actively participate in their treatment process that would result in a superior outcome.