Women over 75 and their doctors need to look at the possible benefits and risks to decide whether to get a mammogram. The following are some factors to consider when deciding about getting screened for breast cancer:
- Life expectancy: If you aren't going to live long enough to benefit from the test, it doesn't make sense to have it done. Most tumors detected by mammography will not be obvious or cause clinical concern for at least five years. Most older women will live this long -- on average, 75-year-olds have about 12 more years of life and 85-year-olds have about seven. However, if you're 95, you have three. Life expectancy is very dependent on your health status, and it is your health status, rather than your age, that you should consider when deciding whether you should have a mammogram.
- Your views on treatment: Consider whether you'd want to undergo treatment if a tumor were found. Treatments include surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy. For frail women or those in poor health, nonsurgical options and medications with fewer side effects than typical chemotherapy may provide benefit.
These are issues that vary both with the individual person and the tumor but should be discussed with your doctor when deciding whether to have a mammogram.