As a group, women 75 and older are underrepresented in studies that measure the effectiveness of routine mammography screenings.
But research published in Radiology, the journal of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), indicates that the same benefits of routine mammography screenings observed in younger women extend to older women, too.
The new research helps provide guidance for women 70 and older who may be uncertain about whether they should continue to get a mammogram on a regular basis. Recommendations have been inconsistent.
While the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the benefits and harms of routine mammography screenings for older women, major groups such as the American Cancer Society and the American Geriatrics Society recommend that healthy women ages 70 and older continue to get mammograms regularly.
The risk of breast cancer increases with age – and detecting it with mammography does not appear to be less effective in women 70 and older, according to the new research.
Specifically, the study found that breast cancer detected by mammography in women 75 years and older was diagnosed at an earlier stage, required less invasive treatment, and had better rates of survival than those cancers detected by the patient or their doctor.
Among patients with breast cancer age 75 and older, mammography-detected cases were more often stage I by a rate of 62 percent, whereas those cases detected by the patient or their doctor were more likely stage II and III by a rate of 59 percent.
Additionally, researchers found that patients whose breast cancer was found by a mammogram were more often treated with lumpectomy and radiation, and they underwent fewer mastectomies and less chemotherapy than those with cancer detected by patients and physicians.
Mammography detection also was associated with improved 5-year disease-specific survival for invasive breast cancer.
These findings strongly suggest that older women enjoy the same benefits as younger women from mammography detection of breast cancers.