Skip to content

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Women Over 75 May Benefit From Mammograms

Study says early-stage cancer detection is key, but another expert says it may lead to 'overtreatment'

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 5, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women 75 and older may still benefit from routine mammograms, according to new research.

However, not everyone agrees with this study's conclusions.

"Mammography detects breast cancer early, when it's more treatable and the risk of death is very low," said study researcher Judith Malmgren, an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, Seattle.

"If it's not detected by a mammogram and it's detected by the physician or the patients, women are more likely to have advanced stage disease and there is a higher risk of death," she said.

The study findings do make an important argument that age alone is not a reason to abandon mammography, said Dr. Gerrit-Jan Liefers, a surgical oncologist at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Liefers was not involved with the current research, but he did review the study's findings.

But, he added, the findings don't convince him that older women need routine screening.

In fact, Liefers presented preliminary findings from a study he conducted that found mammograms in women 70 and older might do more harm than good at the European Breast Cancer Conference earlier this year. He found that the screenings don't decrease the number of advanced breast cancer cases, but do lead to ''overtreatment," putting some at risk of harmful side effects.

Guidelines from professional organizations don't agree on routine mammograms for older women either. The American Cancer Society recommends that women continue to have mammograms annually as long as they remain in good health.

However, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine, concludes that there is not enough evidence one way or the other to recommend routine screening for women 75 and older.

The study was published online Aug. 5 in Radiology

In the new study, Malmgren and her colleagues looked at data from a registry of women with breast cancer. They found more than 1,100 women over age 75 diagnosed with early- to late-stage breast cancer from 1990 to 2011.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 

WebMD Special Sections