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Are Mammograms Necessary for Senior Women?

By Erik Gans, 9:00 am on

The possibility of developing breast cancer can be a frightening prospect for elderly women. One of the ways they can prevent this type of cancer or catch it in its earliest stages is to get a mammogram. However, there seem to be just as many reasons to avoid getting mammograms as there are to have them done. Fairfield elder care experts discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of having a mammogram at the age of 65 and beyond. 

Increased Risk of Breast Cancer with Age 

As your senior loved one ages, her odds developing breast cancer increase, and it is a good idea for her to schedule a mammogram every 1 to 2 years. Women who live to be 80 have a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer. Because women can develop breast cancer over the course of a lifetime, your loved one’s absolute risk increases the longer she lives. Her relative risk depends on various factors like smoking.

False Positives 

Although senior women should be tested for breast cancer more frequently than younger women, these screenings increase the risk of false positive results. Many older women who have mammograms will be called back for more testing. Most of the time the doctor’s suspicion turns out not to be cancer. However, this type of stress is not emotionally healthy. The anxiety false positives cause could lead to more serious concerns like strokes, heart attacks, and heart disease. Because senior women at are a higher risk of being called back for a false positive, mammograms done beyond the age of 65 can be detrimental for your loved one’s emotional, physical, and mental health. 

False Negative 

Normal breast tissue sometimes hides cancer, which means your loved one can be tested and think everything is fine when she is actually living with breast cancer. This is why having a breast MRI or ultrasound is a good idea for women beyond age 65. There are other forms of breast imaging that could help your loved one prevent a false negative diagnosis.

Dying as a Result of Avoiding Mammograms 

Failing to get a mammogram can increase your loved one’s risk of dying from breast cancer. The sooner your loved one is diagnosed, the sooner she can receive treatment for the disease. Women over 65 are more likely to benefit from treatment because a large percentage of them have either moderate or poorly differentiated breast cancer. Tumors found in younger women are more aggressive than the tumors senior women tend to develop. Without a mammogram, breast cancer may go undetected and worsen. 

For tips on breast cancer prevention, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We are a leading provider of respite and live-in home care Fairfield, CT, families trust, and our caregivers can provide transportation to medical appointments and encourage seniors to lead healthy lifestyles. For more information on our in-home care services, call one of our experienced Care Managers at 203-955-1915 today.