In North America, more mammograms are reported as abnormal, even though the detection rate of breast cancer is the same as elsewhere.
Mammography detects abnormalities within the breast which may or may not be cancer. Research shows that the rate of detection of abnormalities may vary depending on various factors. In a new study, researchers in Seattle found that mammography programs in North America report two to four per cent more abnormal results than in other countries.
Yet this doesn’t mean that the cancer detection rate is higher in North America – it seems to be about the same. So the excess in abnormal findings is probably due to false positives – where a woman turns out not to have cancer at all. This leads to further investigation, extra costs and, of course, anxiety for the woman concerned.
The researchers caution that they don’t yet know why North American mammographers turn in a higher number of abnormal mammograms. It could be that the definition of what is abnormal varies between countries. Further investigation is needed to see what can be done to reduce the number of false positives.
Detection of a specific protein may help women who have ovarian and uterine cancers that are particularly aggressive.
Researchers in Germany have been investigating the role of a glycoprotein (a protein with sugar molecules attached) in ovarian and uterine cancer. The protein is called L1 glycoprotein and it is known that it is involved in the spread of cancer.
The researchers found L1 in 46 out of 58 ovarian cancers and 20 out of 72 uterine cancers. Detection of L1 in a tumor was linked to bad prognosis for the woman involved. Those with L1 positive uterine tumors were at high risk, even if they had endometrioid-tumors which otherwise have a good prognosis. Further studies are needed now to validate the use of L1 as a way of pinpointing those women who need aggressive treatment because their cancers are particularly dangerous.