Routine breast cancer screening should continue for women well into their 70s, according to a leading charity, which warns that the risks increase as individuals age. Elizabeth Wende Breast Center in New York has made the statements after significant research.
In the UK, women stop being invited for screenings when they reach 70, but this does not mean that they are no longer susceptible to the disease. The centre found a “considerable incidence” of breast cancer in the over-75s and 48 per cent of cases in the UK are in those of 65 or more.
Due to the fact that scanning for breast cancer can save lives, experts claim that the benefits of offering it to those over 75 far outweigh any disadvantages. This was confirmed in the Elizabeth Wende Center research, which analysed the results from 763,256 mammography exams.
Despite women over 75 representing a small proportion of the scans, some 16 per cent were diagnosed with breast cancer. This equated to 616 people, who could then go on to have potentially life-saving treatment for the disease.
Further corroboration is found in data collected by Cancer Research UK, which shows that 25 per cent of breast cancer cases are found in women over 75. While the NHS invites women for screenings every three years from the age of 50 to 70, the American Cancer Society recommends checking between 45 and 75.
When routine screening comes to an end, the responsibility to get checked then falls with individuals. They can arrange to have a mammogram through their doctor, but not everyone will realise that it’s necessary.
Dr Emma Pennery, clinical director at Breast Cancer Care, told the Mail Online: “We regularly hear from women on our helpline who have been left in the dark about routine mammograms continuing past 70, when invitations to attend stop.
“They think they are no longer at risk of breast cancer. In fact, breast cancer risk increases with age and older women can request to continue routine screening up to any age.
“Screening remains our best tool for detecting breast cancer at the earliest possible stage so it’s crucial that every woman eligible has all the information to make an empowered decision about whether to attend.”
The majority of the cancers detected in the study were found to be grade two or three, which means they grow quickly and spread easily. This makes early diagnosis important if they’re to be treated and the patient make a full recovery.
Dr Stamatia Destounis, who conducted the research, said that most of the tumours found in the over-75s during the curse of the study were invasive. This led to 98 per cent of them undergoing surgery as a result.
If you’re concerned that a female elderly relative is not have regular breast cancer screenings then be sure to talk to them about setting up a mammogram. Their GP will be able to help with the arrangements and it could save their life.