Breast Cancer and the Elderly

(12/1/19)- A study of more than 40,000 women with extremely dense breasts in the Netherlands found that those who had mammograms followed by M. R. I.s had more tumors detected than with mammograms alone.

The results of the study were published in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. Women with dense breast tissue have a higher risk of developing breast cancer than women with fatty tissue.

Unfortunately more false readings of cancer occurred when the M. R. I test was also taken. The women in the study were between the ages of 50 to 75. Carla van Gills. Professor of clinical epidemiology att he University Medical Center was the senior author of the study.

(3/8/18)- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized 23andMe to offer screenings for three types of breast cancer common to Ashkenazi Jews. The testing can take place at home without the approval of a medical professional. This is the first time such approval has been granted to a genetic testing company.

23andMe can report the results as part of its $199 Health and Ancestry product which uses DNA from saliva samples to inform its users of their genetic health risks as well as countries in their background.

The company announced that there would not be any extra charge for this added information.

Women who carry one of the three BRCA1 and BRCA2gene mutations are at substantially increased risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer, and men are at higher risk for developing prostate cancer

(9/10/14)- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given approval to General Electric Co., to market its 3-D breast imaging technology in which Hologic Inc.ís product is the predominant product.

This process, which is also known as tomosynthesis, combines X-rays taken from multiple angles to produce a more accurate picture than regular mammograms. Studies have found that using this equipment is more accurate in finding breast tumors, with fewer false alarms being thrown off. Some medical facilities may charge $50 to $75 more for the usage of this equipment.

(7/15/08)- The risk of breast cancer increases with age, and yet there is no clear-cut answer as to how often women over 75 years of age should subject themselves to mammograms. There is very little data on this subject so the guidelines are inconsistent.

The American Geriatrics Society recommends mammograms every two to three years for women over 75 if life expectancy is at least 4 years, while the American Cancer Society recommends mammograms for all women over 40 every year.

A recent study that tried to assess the usefulness of mammography for women over 80 found that very few women in this age group, 22%, underwent regular screenings for breast cancer. Among those that did undergo the test the screening found the cancer early enough so that the women could avoid a mastectomy and survive at least five years.

Many medical professionals feel that there are more important illnesses in elderly women than breast cancer that should get greater attention than cancer screenings. These include illnesses such as high blood pressure, low mobility, depression, chronic pain and impaired vision and hearing.

The mammography study, published in May in the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at the records of more than 12,000 patients aged 80 and older who were given diagnoses of breast cancer from 1996 to 2002. Among the women who were given mammography exams every year or two, 68% found the cancer at an early stage, compared with 33% of those who skipped mammograms altogether.

Five years after the breast cancer diagnosis, 75% of the frequent screened women were alive, compared with only 48% of those who had not been screened for at least five years before their cancer was found.

About 17% of breast cancer are discovered in women over the age of 80

"A woman who's 70 still has close to 19 years of life left on average," said Robert A. Smith, the director of screening for the American Geriatric Society.


By Allan Rubin
updated December 1, 2019

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