Former First Lady Nancy Reagan was 66 years old when she underwent a unilateral mastectomy to remove an early adenocarcinoma. According to The New York Times, "The cancer, seven millimeters in diameter, was about the smallest doctors can detect on a mammogram." In the years that followed, she was dedicated to promoting routine mammograms for women, even later in life.
Recently, however, experts have questioned whether the benefits of mammography outweigh the risks of overtreatment for older women. Twenty-eight percent of women ages 65 to 74 skip the diagnostic scan, while 44 percent of those over 75 do. That may not be smart.
Now, a new Swedish study that analyzed data on thousands of cases of breast cancer has found that breast cancer death rates are 27 percent lower in women 70 to 74 who opt to continue routine mammography compared to those who stop at age 69.
Here in the states, the United State Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening mammography every two years for women 50 to 74 years old. That's because if you are at average risk for breast cancer, those are the years the screening offers the most benefits, especially if you're in good health. Older than that? Today, women on average live to 81, so you still have a lot of living to do! Getting mammography regularly increases the chance of detecting breast cancer early when, even late in life, it is treatable or curable. So talk with your doctor about your individual situation.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.