Older Women May Benefit From Mammograms

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Elderly women may benefit from having a mammogram to detect breast cancer.

A new study by the Swedish Cancer Institute found that women age 75 and older may benefit from having an annual mammogram. The study was published in the Aug. 5, 2014 edition of Radiology and reported that women in this age group whose breast cancer is detected by a mammogram have a better five-year survival rate.

When a mammogram was used to diagnose the cancer, it was typically found in an earlier stage, which meant an increased chance that treatment would work on those with the disease. Women who are age 75 and older are not recommended by the American Cancer Society to undergo mammograms unless they have a serious chronic condition or a shorter life expectancy. However, lead researcher Judith Malmgren at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine said that women in this age group should be told of the possible benefits that may result from having a mammogram.

The reason that the benefits of a mammogram in older women have not been fully established is because of a lack of research.

"There are no studies on women age 75 and older, despite the fact that they are at the highest risk for breast cancer," Malmgren told Medscape.

During a 21-year period from 1990 to 2011, Malmgren found that 64 percent of breast cancers were diagnosed via mammogram while 36 percent were found by the patient or their physician, according to the study. Five-year survival rates were also greater in mammography-detected disease – 97 percent – compared to 87 percent in physician- or patient-detected breast cancer.

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