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  • Mammography may benefit women over 80

Jun 2008
Although the benefits of mammography in women aged 50 to 69 are commonly acknowledged, regular screening in women over 80 is less common and the benefits are not well known. Thus, Dr. Gildy Babiera and her colleagues at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston wanted to find out whether regular mammography (more than three mammograms in five years) has a significant effect on the stage of breast cancer diagnosis among women over 80 years old. They evaluated 12,358 women over 80, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer between 1996 and 2002.

They examined the screening that took place within five years preceding the breast cancer diagnosis and divided the patients into three groups: Those who did not undergo any screening were considered nonusers (49 percent); those who had one or two mammograms were considered irregular users (29 percent); and those who had had three or more were considered regular users (22 percent). Mean tumor size found at diagnosis for nonusers was 5.22 cm, 3.40 cm for irregular users and 2.90 cm for regular users. Patients who underwent irregular screening or did not receive screening had more stage II, III and IV breast cancers, while regular-user patients had about 15 percent more stage I breast cancers than irregular-user ones and 35 percent more than nonuser patients.

These results are detailed in the May 20 issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. The researchers concluded that regular mammography in women over 80 may help to identify breast cancer at an earlier disease stage, which can translate into less radical and toxic treatments. However, they caution that patients in their study who underwent regular mammography also seemed to be healthier in general and that one cannot extrapolate a survival benefit when obtaining regular mammography in this age group.

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