Women who bristle about going in for routine mammograms may have a new reason to put this screening test on their priority list. Recent research has shown that this simple annual test may also help doctors more readily detect clogging of the arteries in its earlier phases. While breast cancer strikes an estimated 1 in 8 women over a lifetime, heart disease is known to kill about 1 in 4 women. Having the ability to screen for both concerns in a single test could be a major lifesaver, researchers say.
A recent study looked into the benefits of also monitoring for telltale signs of heart disease during mammograms. Those who read mammograms have long known they could detect plaque buildup in the arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the breasts. What they didn’t know, prior to the research, is if the findings truly indicated calcification in the coronary arteries. The study found that it could.
To arrive at those findings, researchers created a score related to plaque buildup seen in mammograms. About 300 women were tested with mammograms and then were given chest CT scans. As it turned out, a high breast plaque buildup score did signal coronary artery concerns in about 63 percent of the cases. False positives, however, were also noted.
While not perfect, the study indicates that issues related to plaque buildup detected during mammograms may serve as a signal for necessary follow up. This, in turn, could lead women to identity potentially deadly heart disease while it is still treatable and heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by taking action.
Breast cancer is a concern for all women. Early, routine screening using mammograms may lead to the detection and successful treatment of this disease. As it turns out, this simple test may also help women avoid the potential ramifications of unchecked heart disease.