While a routine screening mammogram won’t prevent breast cancer, it does save countless lives by detecting the disease as early as possible. The Mayo Clinic cites research in which regular screening mammograms have reduced breast cancer deaths by 30% in the U.S. alone.
There are several guidelines as to who should have a mammogram and when, including guidelines that we follow at Lubbock Diagnostic Radiology. For example, women who are at average risk for breast cancer should have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40.
Meanwhile, women with a 20% risk for breast cancer – based on family history – should begin annual mammograms at age 20.
One question, however, is how long women should continue to get mammograms? Is there an age at which you should stop having a mammogram? Let’s take a closer look:
What is Your Breast Cancer Risk?
Age is one of several risk factors associated with breast cancer. In fact, the most aggressive breast cancers are found in women 55 or older. Other factors, such as genes, family history, cancer history, and breast density (women with denser breasts are more likely to get breast cancer) also determine an individual’s risk.
Different organizations may also have different guidelines regarding the recommended frequency of mammograms. Many doctors, however, follow the American Cancer Society’s recommendation that women should have yearly mammograms beginning at age 40 and continuing for as long the person remains in good health.
Is There an Age When You Should Stop Mammograms?
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force – which recommends mammograms at least every other year from ages 50 to 74 – says that there’s not enough evidence to recommend regular screening for women 75 and over.
However, others suggest that women continue to get annual mammograms into their 70s and beyond because the average life expectancy of a woman in the U.S. is in the mid-80s.
Mammography for Women in Older Age Groups
While there may be additional challenges in performing screenings for older women, research shows that technical adaptions made in recent year ensure adequate imaging. Some of the challenges encountered included seated examinations for women with poor balance, Parkinson’s disease, or pacemakers.
The bottom line, however, is that adaptions have been made, most of them minor, and that an increasingly older population has spurred the necessary technical advancements. That’s good news for older women who, as mentioned, face a greater risk of developing aggressive breast cancers.