Screening mammography should continue after age 75

New research presented at the 2018 RSNA Annual Meeting in Chicago suggested women 75 years and older should continue to get annual screening mammograms due to high incidence of breast cancer found in this population, according to an RSNA press release published Nov. 20.  

In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released controversial guidelines stating there wasn’t enough data to determine the benefits and risks of screening mammography in women age 75 and older, but other professional groups advised otherwise.  

"Ongoing debate exists regarding the age to cease screening mammography," Stamatia V. Destounis, MD, a radiologist at Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, LLC, in Rochester, N.Y., said in the release. "Our findings provide important data demonstrating that there is value in screening women over 75 because there is a considerable incidence of breast cancer." 

The researchers analyzed data from 763,256 mammography exams at Elizabeth Wende Breast Care between 2007 and 2017. A total of 3,944 patients were already diagnosed with cancer detected from previous screenings. Ten percent of patients age 75 years and older were included in the study.  

In 616 patients, a total of 645 malignancies were diagnosed—equating to a rate of 8.4 detections per 1,000 exams in the age group, according to the researchers.  

"For the relatively small percentage of our screening population that was comprised of women 75 and older, the patients diagnosed in this population made up 16 percent of all patients diagnosed with screening-detected cancers," Destounis said. 

Additionally, the researchers found that 82 percent of malignancies were invasive cancer. Almost all the cancers found were treated surgically and positive lymph nodes were reported at surgical excision in seven percent of the patients, according to the researchers.  

Because mammography can detect changes in breasts up to two years before a woman or her physician can feel them, the researchers advised women over 75 who are in good health to continue routine screenings.