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Breast Cancer Health Center

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Women Over 75 May Benefit From Mammograms

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


The registry had information on how the cancer was diagnosed, the stage and other data. The detection of cancers with mammography increased over time during the study, from 49 percent to 70 percent.

Most mammography-detected cancers were in the early stage, while those found by doctors and patients were more likely to be advanced.

Those detected by mammography were more likely to need less aggressive treatments as well.

The study said that breast cancer survival was better in women whose cancer was detected by mammography, with 97 percent alive five years later. In comparison, 87 percent of those with invasive cancers found by their doctor or themselves were alive at the five-year mark.

However, the study was only able to show a link between mammography and improved survival. It wasn't able to prove that mammography was directly linked to the increased survival.

In addition, Liefers argued that the conclusion that fewer women died of breast cancer if it was detected by mammography may not be accurate. Other factors may play in to the survival besides the screening itself, he said. For instance, patient-detected tumors may be more aggressive than mammography-detected tumors.

Findings that do favor screening for older women include the decrease in advanced cancers and the increase in early cancer detection, Liefers said.

The take-home message, according to Malmgren, is for women 75 and over to get a mammogram every other year. That advice only holds true if women have a life expectancy of five years or more, though.

Liefers said that women should ''discuss their individual risk of breast cancer and competing risks of mortality with their doctor," before making a decision on whether or not to get a mammogram.

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