Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Experts question routine mammograms in elderly

Date:
April 1, 2014
Source:
University of California - San Francisco
Summary:
Doctors should focus on life expectancy when deciding whether to order mammograms for their oldest female patients, since the harms of screening likely outweigh the benefits unless women are expected to live at least another decade, according to a review of the scientific literature by experts.

Doctors should focus on life expectancy when deciding whether to order mammograms for their oldest female patients, since the harms of screening likely outweigh the benefits unless women are expected to live at least another decade, according to a review of the scientific literature by experts at UCSF and Harvard medical schools.

National guidelines recommend that doctors make individualized screening decisions for women 75 and older. But the analysis, published online in JAMA (March 31, 2014), concluded that since this age group was not included in mammography trials, there is no evidence that screening helps them live longer, healthier lives.

The authors said that many women in this age group receive regular mammograms anyway, with no discussion about the uncertain benefit or potential harms of continued testing, which include unnecessary treatment for slow-growing cancers or pre-cancerous lesions that pose no real threat to the women's lives.

They concluded that women who are expected to live a decade or more should talk with their doctors and weigh the potential benefits of diagnosing a dangerous but treatable cancer through mammography against the possibility of being misdiagnosed or treated aggressively for a cancer that posed no real harm.

"People should be informed that everything we do in medicine can have good and bad effects, and that goes for mammography," said Louise Walter, MD, UCSF professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Geriatrics.

The authors arrived at their conclusions after examining all the studies conducted from 1990 to 2014 that identified risk factors for late-life breast cancer in women 65 and older, as well as the studies that assessed the value of mammography for women 75 and older.

Since there were no randomized trials of the benefits of screening women over 74, they could not say whether mammography was beneficial for those women. Longitudinal studies found that healthy older women who were screened with mammography were less likely to die from breast cancer, but screening was not beneficial for women with serious medical problems.

Modeling studies indicate mammograms would prevent two cancer deaths for every 1,000 women in their 70s who were screened every two years for 10 years. However, these studies also predicted that about 200 of those women would receive test results indicating they had cancer when they did not, and about 13 would be treated for cancers that posed no harm.

Doctors use complex algorithms to assess breast cancer risk, but these calculations lose their ability to predict disease in the oldest women, because risk factors change as women age.

For example, how old a woman was when she first got her period and whether she bore children and at what age are important factors in determining breast cancer risk for women under 75. But these factors are no longer relevant once women reach the age of 75. Instead, the main risk factor for developing breast cancer is age itself.

"The things that may be predictive in older women likely have to do with recent hormone exposure, such as lifelong obesity, high bone density or taking hormones, which are associated with higher estrogen levels," said Mara Schonberg, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Distant hormone exposures, such as the age a woman first got her period, may not make much difference in who gets breast cancer in this older population. Older age is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Francisco. The original article was written by Laura Kurtzman. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Louise C. Walter, Mara A. Schonberg. Screening Mammography in Older Women. JAMA, 2014; 311 (13): 1336 DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.2834

Cite This Page:

University of California - San Francisco. "Experts question routine mammograms in elderly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401162200.htm>.
University of California - San Francisco. (2014, April 1). Experts question routine mammograms in elderly. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401162200.htm
University of California - San Francisco. "Experts question routine mammograms in elderly." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401162200.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins