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Childhood cancer survivors need early breast cancer screening

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Women treated with chest radiation for childhood cancers are not being adequately screened for breast cancer, research suggests.

This group of women constitute one of the highest risk populations for breast cancer yet they are not being screened early enough, say US researchers.

According to the team from St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, women who have undergone chest radiation for childhood cancers should start having mammograms age 25.

But the study of 551 women aged 25 to 50, who underwent the treatment for childhood cancers, found that only 55 per cent had undergone breast cancer screening in the previous two years.

The screening level was particularly low among women aged 25 to 39, with only 36.5 per cent reporting having mammograms in the previous two years.

“These statistics document a serious problem - that a large proportion of women who should be screened at a very young age are not being tested,” the researchers said.

Early mammograms, and more education about the risks of breast cancer, could help catch the disease at an early stage, making successful treatment far more likely in this group of patients, they added in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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