Research questions effectiveness of mammograms

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Healthy women over the age of 75 might not benefit from continuing breast cancer screening, according to new research.

Dr Otis Brawley of Johns Hopkins University explained in an editorial that while many studies showed the effectiveness of mammograms starting at age 50, there was little evidence of when screening should stop.

An important question in cancer screening is the age at which it should stop. At some age, the modest potential harm associated with screening will outweigh the benefits because the latter accrue in the future. 

The research used data to estimate the breast cancer mortality of women under two strategies – continuing versus stopping screening in older women.

They found a small mortality benefit for continuing to screen women between the ages of 70 to 74, but not those between 75 to 84. 

Researchers compared deaths from breast cancer over eight years’ follow-up in women who continued getting yearly mammograms and those who stopped screening. 

The researchers studied data on more than one million women aged 70 to 84 who underwent mammograms from 2000 to 2008.

Women in the study had a life expectancy of at least 10 years and no prior breast cancer diagnosis.

They found that in women aged 70 to 74, the benefit of screening outweighed the risks, which can include overdiagnosis, overtreatment and the anxiety of a potential breast cancer diagnosis.

In women 75 to 84, screening did not substantially reduce the risk of dying from breast cancer.

The reason is likely that by 75, women are more likely to die from heart disease or neurological diseases such as dementia than breast cancer, the authors said.

Regardless of age, women were less likely to receive aggressive therapies (radical mastectomy, chemotherapy) for breast cancer if they continued screening.

Do you undergo annual mammogram screening? Do you think more research should be done on the benefits of screening after women reach a certain age?

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Written by Ben

17 Comments

Total Comments: 17
  1. 0
    0

    I do continue with mammograms post 75yrs. Since I am responsible for my health it seems sensible to keep an eye on the preventables and the treatables.
    Good advice is useful in helping me decide how to go about it, but no-one else is in charge of my general health and survival, so I just do what seems best – eat, sleep, exercise, socialise and keep an eye on the prevetables and treatables.

  2. 0
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    after my first breast cancer scare 50 years ago, I continued to have biannual checks. Three times further investigation was required. Now 74, I am ready to stop.

  3. 0
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    If I reach past 75 then I will . Just been diagnosed with breast cancer at the of 54. Cancer amongst women is increasing

  4. 0
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    If I reach past 75 then I will . Just been diagnosed with breast cancer at the of 54. Cancer amongst women is increasing

  5. 0
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    A friend of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 86. She thought that she was too old to get breast cancer and did not get any mammograms. She felt lump in her breast and it had grown quite large before she told her doctor. She was operated on and is still alive 5 years later. I myself had mammograms since I was 40 as I had early menopause. Am 71 now and was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years ago. I will continue to get annual mammograms for the rest of my life.

  6. 0
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    Mammograms save lives. Early detection is critical at any age

    • 0
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      I know lots of women where a mammogram has given them the all clear but they did have breast cancer so you need a MRI not a mamagram to pick up breast cancer.

  7. 0
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    Mammograms only pick up about 50% of breast cancers so if in doubt have a MRI.

    • 0
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      A couple of years ago my doctor referred me for a breast MRI but i was told by the radiology clinic I had to pay the full cost of $400.00 because Medicare does not fund any of the cost so i couldn’t have it as i couldn’t fund it.The health system is a joke.

  8. 0
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    I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 72. It was caught early. An operation to remove it and radiation were necessary. According to the Specialist, 99% sure that I am cured.
    An observant radiographer doing the mammogram spotted it. I am now 75 and continue to have annual mammograms.

  9. 0
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    On reaching 70 I was advised that I would no longer be notified about mammogram screening but that I could still have it if I applied. No thank you! To me it was a traumatic experience each time as it really hurt. Being a lover of all things natural I felt that the pressure put on me might be doing more harm inside rather than helping.
    I am now nearly 85 and lucky to be fairly healthy disregarding a bit of arthritis, varicose veins, low bone density in a hip, eye cataracts and thin skin due to blood thinning medication. All these age-related minor problems are being treated by a very astute doctor so I think I’m very lucky and very glad I discontinued the mammograms when I did.

  10. 0
    0

    On reaching 70 I was advised that I would no longer be notified about mammogram screening but that I could still have it if I applied. No thank you! To me it was a traumatic experience each time as it really hurt. Being a lover of all things natural I felt that the pressure put on me might be doing more harm inside rather than helping.
    I am now nearly 85 and lucky to be fairly healthy disregarding a bit of arthritis, varicose veins, low bone density in a hip, eye cataracts and thin skin due to blood thinning medication. All these age-related minor problems are being treated by a very astute doctor so I think I’m very lucky and very glad I discontinued the mammograms when I did.

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