Background: Screening mammography reduces breast cancer mortality at the cost of frequent false-positive results that lead to unnecessary medical procedures, and the treatment of indolent breast cancers that would never threaten life or health. Earlier diagnosis generally permits less disruptive treatment, but it is possible that even the diagnosis of a very small breast cancer could significantly adversely impact health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in older women. Methods: The authors compared changes in HRQOL measured by either the Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form (SF-36) or the Veterans Rand 12-item Health Survey (VR-12) between 198 women diagnosed with in situ or invasive breast cancer measuring ≤1 cm and 36,814 matched controls using the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results cancer registry linked with the Medicare Health Outcomes Survey. Results: The mean age of the cases and controls was 75 years. The SF-36/VR-12 physical component score 12 was found to decrease by 1.6 points between the baseline and follow-up surveys for the controls compared with 3.2 points for women diagnosed with small breast cancers (P =.016). A 2-point decline is recognized as the minimally significant difference for this measure. On multivariable analysis, diagnosis of a small breast cancer was found to be one of the strongest predictors of a significant decrease in both the physical and mental domains of HRQOL (P =.012 and P =.023, respectively). Conclusions: Receiving the diagnosis of even a very small breast cancer significantly impacts the physical and mental domains of HRQOL in older women. This finding can inform discussions regarding the relative benefits and costs of screening mammography in older women.
- Medicare Health Outcomes Survey
- Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results
- breast neoplasms
- health-related quality of life
- screening mammography
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research