If you’re a woman at least 75 years of age, keep getting your mammograms. That’s the main message from recent findings that shed new light on the topic.
Since 2009, guidelines about when to stop breast cancer screenings have been a source of confusion for patients and debate among medical experts. A decade ago, a federally appointed panel of experts issued controversial guidelines saying the risks and benefits of mammography in women age 75 and older were unclear. Other groups have since suggested that women who are in good health should continue the screenings.
Now, findings presented at the Radiological Society of North America meeting provide data showing there is value in screening women over 75 due to the incidence of breast cancer in that group.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 700,000 mammography exams over a 10-year period at a Rochester, New York, breast care center. Ten percent of the patients were over age 75 but they accounted for 16 percent of all patients diagnosed with screening-detected cancers. Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved fast-growing cancers but 98 percent of the cases were treatable with surgery, the researchers found.
The breast cancer prevalence in women over age 75 underscores the value of ongoing mammograms, the researchers concluded. Mammography can play a crucial role in early cancer detection, sometimes showing crucial changes up to two years before a woman or physician notices changes. Early detection also can lead to better treatment options.
The takeaway from this research? There are benefits to continuing breast cancer screenings in your later years, but do so in consultation with your physician.