While the debate continues over when Women should start getting regular mammograms, a new discussion has opened up about when it is no longer necessary. Although most recommendations are for women to begin at age 40- 50, my own doctor suggested his patients get a baseline test at 30 so he could “have something healthy to compare to in the future.” Regular mammography has been defined as at least 3 or more during the 5 years before diagnosis. Irregular use as just 1 or 2 during the same period.
“”There’s a point at which everyone begins to scratch their head and say how much longer do I have to keep this up?” commented Robert Smith of the American Cancer Society.
The question becomes more acute as women continue to live longer, which, in turn, increases the risk of Breast Cancer. At the same time, the odds that they will die from other causes also rises. As a result, some people have argued that it may be more cost efficient to limit the age for testing so that resources can be better directed toward “younger” females, something that has enraged many seniors who feel that such ideas diminish the value of their lives compared to the next generation.
However, another question asked is, if you already know that someone in their mid to upper 70’s is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s or has Parkinson’s, etc., is it really necessary for them to be tested for Breast cancer, and, if detected, could they withstand the surgery or other treatments such as chemo and radiation?
At the same time, Dr. Jeanne Mandelblatt, a specialist in aging at Georgetown University noted that many women in their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and older are still in relatively good health. Additional questions have been raised after Yale Medical Center in Connecticut reported that they have diagnosed 8 cases of breast in women over 90-years old since 2000.
Meanwhile, recently issued guidelines published by the United States Preventative Services Task Force noted that there is a lack of evidence to recommend ceasing mammograms after 75 because the “age group hasn’t been studied enough to tell,” while the American Cancer Society believes women should continue to get examined as long as they are in overall good health.
Still, even if an elderly woman is in relatively good health, there may be other conditions to consider, including her frailty. This not only includes the fact that their skin is a lot thinner and may be more prone to tear from the unavoidable “force” incurred by a mammogram on the breast, but also whether she can stand unassisted for several minutes, and can raise her arms without losing her balance. If not, it may be necessary to perform a seated mammogram, or even have an aide present in the room to assist. If so, the aide may need to wear a lead apron for her own protection. It should be noted that accommodations can be made to give mammos to people confined to wheelchairs.
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