- New data presented Monday at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual conference suggests women up to age 90 may benefit from mammograms, HealthDay reports.
- However, the researchers cautioned that breast screenings should continue just so long as there is value from early detection.
- The study — based on an analysis of cancer detection rates in 5.6 million breast studies in the National Mammography Database — comes as breast cancer death rates are declining in the U.S.
Just when and how often women should get mammograms has been hotly debated. In 2009, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommended screening women age 50 to 74 every two years, but said the benefit to risk ratio for women 75 and over was inconclusive.
The USPSTF revised its guidelines last January, saying mammograms should be performed every two years starting at age 50, and they should be optional for women in their 40s. The recommendations put the government at odds with the guidelines issued by the American Cancer Society last October.
A study published last month in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Report showed that breast cancer death rates dropped for all women between 2010 and 2014. The researchers attributed the improvement to better education about breast cancer screening and treatment options, as well as broader access to personalized medicine.
In this study, the researchers looked at patient age, imaging results, recall rates for additional testing and biopsy referrals and results. Also factored in was the percentage of biopsies that confirmed breast cancer since screening should increase the cancer detection rate.
According to Robert Smith, vice president of Screening for the American Cancer Society, about 30% of breast cancer deaths occur in women diagnosed 70 and older. “Many of these deaths are avoidable … since mammography screening performs increasingly well as women get older,” Smith said. “While incidence is high, the disease is slower growing and density is lower, providing improved opportunity for early detection.”
He recommended against continued screening of women with chronic diseases and short life expectancy, saying they’re not likely to benefit and it could impact the quality of their remaining years of life.