Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, San Diego, set out to determine whether the recommended timeframe for a post-treatment mammogram offers any benefit to patients.
It is significant to note here that current American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines recommend follow-up mammograms at between six and 12 months after radiation.
During the study, the researchers looked at 408 patients who were treated with breast-conserving therapy and radiation between 1995 and 2005, and who had follow-up mammograms at UCLA within one year after completing radiation.
The median interval between radiation and the initial mammogram was 3.1 months.
The researchers found that only 10 patients had suspicious findings on their mammograms, and that only two of them were found to have recurrent cancer.
Both cases were non-invasive ductal carcinomas, they revealed.
Considering that only 0.49 recurrences were detected per 100 mammograms, and that only non-invasive ductal carcinoma was found, the researchers came to the conclusion that mammograms should not be performed until at least one year after radiation.
The cost of a mammogram is about 115 dollars, and many women can experience moderate to severe pain during the procedure and high levels of anxiety during a needle biopsy.
The researchers say that not performing mammograms for one year after the treatment can help avoid medical and psychological costs associated with mammography.
"Omitting the initial post-radiotherapy examination may improve the psychological well-being of patients, especially for women who have already been shown to have breast cancer," said Dr. Kevin Lin, lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at Advanced Oncology Center in West Covina, California.
The study has been published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics.