Mammograms After Age 75?

| Updated: November 27, 2018

Could mammograms benefit women aged 75 and older? It’s a population are at highest risk for breast cancer—but it's also the least studied, according to Judith A. Malmgren, Ph.D., affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Seattle. She and Henry Kaplan, M.D., from the Swedish Cancer Institute aimed to change that, studying the impact of mammography detection on older women. They found that patients whose breast cancer was detected via mammography, versus those who'd been self- or physician- detected, were early stage, more often treated with lumpectomy and radiation, and had fewer mastectomies and less chemotherapy.

Those numbers can have a huge impact on those age 75 or older—women are living longer, says Malmgren, and early detection means less aggressive treatment, which is easier on older bodies. “A 75-year-old woman today has a 13-year life expectancy," says Malmgren. "You only need five years of life expectancy to make mammography screening worthwhile.”