Mammography Saves Lives in Women Over 75

August 5, 2014

Mammography detects early cancers in older women and provides better disease-specific survival than cancers discovered by the patient or physician.

Mammographies detect early breast cancer in women 75 years and older, providing the same benefits as seen in younger women in terms of treatment and disease-specific survival, according to an article published in the journal Radiology.

Researchers from the University of Washington and Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle, Wash., sought to evaluate the characteristics and outcomes of women 75 years and older with mammography-detected breast cancer. “There are no studies on women age 75 and older, despite the fact that they are at the highest risk for breast cancer,” co-author Judith A. Malmgren, PhD, affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health and Community Medicine, said in a release.

The prospective cohort study included 1,162 patients, aged 75 or older, with stage 0-IV primary breast cancer, detected between 1990 and 2011. The researchers noted stage, treatment, outcomes and method of detection for each patient.

The results showed that in this group, mammography detection of cancers increased from 49 percent to 70 percent, most often at stage I (62 percent). Cancers detected by patients or physicians were more often at stage II and III (59 percent).[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"26748","attributes":{"alt":"mammography machine","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_2273438699382","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"2535","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 184px; width: 150px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Women whose cancer was detected by mammography were more likely to undergo a lumpectomy and radiation. They had fewer mastectomies and fewer underwent chemotherapy than women whose cancer was discovered by themselves or their physician.

Between 1990 and 2011, the incidence of stage II and stage III cancers each decreased by 8 percent and stage 0 cancer increased by 15 percent.

Five-year disease-specific survival for invasive breast cancer was significantly better among those with mammography-detected cancers at 97 percent, compared with 87 percent for patient- and physician-detected cancers.

The authors concluded that mammography was equally as important for cancer detection for older women as with younger women. “Mammography enables detection when breast cancer is at an early stage and is easier to treat with more tolerable options,” Malmgren said. “In this study, older women had a 10 percent reduction in breast cancer-specific mortality after five years.”