ATLANTA -- More than a third of breast cancer survivors gradually stop getting annual mammographies, according to a new study.
The results may indicate that women grow complacent about screening once they get past the medical scare, said the study's lead author, Dr. Chyke Doubeni, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
Others said it is more likely that survivors avoid screenings because they dread a recurrence of the cancer and additional treatment.
''They're fearful something's going to be found," said Dr. Kathryn Edmiston, an oncologist who specializes in breast cancer patients, of UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.
The study found that 63 percent of women were getting annual mammographies five years after breast cancer surgery. The findings were reported in Cancer, a medical journal published by the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society.
About 2.3 million US women have been treated for breast cancer, and they are considered to be at three times the risk for tumors in the other, unaffected breast than women with no such medical history.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all women 40 and older get an annual mammography But studies have shown that about 58 percent of women over 40 do.
Few studies have looked at how often breast cancer survivors get mammographies.
''The assumption has been that once women have had breast cancer, they're going to recognize the value of a mammography and get it done," Edmiston said.
In this study, researchers reviewed medical records for 797 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996 or 1997. All were 55 and older, although the average age was 69.5. All received care from health systems in Worcester, Detroit, Minneapolis, or Oakland, Calif. More than 80 percent were white.