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When should women stop getting mammograms?

The mammography trials did not include many women older than 70 years, so there is insufficient data about this age group to know if mammography leads to saved lives or not. Many women in their 70s and 80s get mammograms, which is fine, but you have to be prepared for an abnormal finding and what you would do about it. If you are unhealthy and acting on an abnormal mammogram would be more harm to you, then good then you should reconsider annual mammography because there are no studies that say that your survival would be any different if you had not had the mammogram.

 

Dr. Audrey K. Chun, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Being older is beneficial when it comes to mammography, which is still the first-line screening method for breast cancer. Mammograms are more sensitive as women get older, because their breast tissue becomes less glandular and more fatty, which makes it easier to detect cancer. Less radiation is typically needed to get an excellent-quality mammogram in older women compared with younger women, although the dose for both women is very low.

Despite these facts, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently concluded that the evidence was insufficient to assess the benefits and harms of screening mammography in women 75 years of age or older. Why is this?

The USPSTF recommended that women between the ages of 50 and 74 get a mammogram every two years. There are data from high-quality clinical trials showing that lives are saved when this is done. Unfortunately, women age 75 and older have not been included in any of these trials.

All women over 40—and especially those 65 or older—should get annual mammograms. Studies show that even many doctors are unaware of the importance of mammograms for older women and, in fact, do not make mammogram referrals often enough after age 65.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening mammography up to 74 years of age.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.