Hormone Therapy Break Does Not Improve Mammogram Results

June 5, 2009

A new study found that stopping postmenopausal hormones before a mammogram does not improve a woman's chances of having to be called back because of a false test result.

Stopping postmenopausal hormones before a mammogram does not improve a woman’s chances of having to be called back because of a false test result, a new study has found.

Among the group of women who continued with the hormone therapy, 11. 3% were called back for further tests, compared to 12.3% of women who stopped hormone therapy for one month before the test and 9.8% who stopped for two months. However, the women who stopped the hormones were found to have less density in their breasts at the time of the mammogram, which, according to the researchers, is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer, other than age.

Previous studies have suggested that pausing hormone therapy before a mammogram would improve the accuracy of the results, according to Diana S.M. Buist, PhD, MPH, an associate investigator at Group Health Center for Health Studies. Though there was no specific time frame suggested, Buist and her colleagues conducted the Radiological Evaluation and Breast Density (READ) trial to test this hypothesis.

"Studies like this are important for making sure that we are basing medicine on evidence and providing the most effective health care,” said Buist. "This study does not change our clinical message to doctors or patients about hormone therapy,” which includes women engaging in “shared decision making with their doctors about whether or not to take hormones for their menopause symptoms—and if so, for how long," said Buist's co-author Susan D. Reed, MD, MPH.

The Group Health study included more than 1,700 women from the group’s Breast Cancer Screening Program.

"We really hoped to find that a brief break in hormone therapy would lower false-positives and remove unnecessary costs and anxiety by improving mammography," Buist said. "And we were disappointed to find that it didn't. But we'll keep trying to find ways to reduce recall rates for women—in hopes of making mammography more effective and ensuring women have to go through the least amount of testing and radiation that's necessary."

Findings of the study were published in the June 2 online edition of Annals of Internal Medicine.