"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Older women risk overdiagnosis during mammograms: study

August 8, 2023 – Women who continued to have breast cancer screenings after age 70 didn’t have a lower risk of dying from the disease. In fact, simply having a mammogram may put them at unnecessary risk, in line with a brand new study from the Yale School of Medicine.

The results were published on Tuesday within the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, suggest that between 31% and 54% of all breast cancer diagnoses in women aged 70 and over may very well be considered overdiagnoses, meaning that the cancer detected during screening wouldn’t have caused symptoms through the person’s lifetime. (For comparison, the typical life expectancy of a girl within the United States is 79 years, in line with CDC.)

Overdiagnosis might be harmful since it carries the chance of complications from overtreatment, in addition to financial and emotional burden and unnecessary use of limited resources.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 54,635 women aged 70 and older and compared breast cancer diagnosis and death rates in women with and without mammography over a 15-year statement period.

The breast cancer rate within the study amongst women ages 70 to 74 was 6% amongst women who were screened and 4% amongst women who weren’t screened. The researchers estimated that 31% of cases could have been overdiagnosed. Among women ages 75 to 84, 5% of ladies screened were found to have breast cancer, compared with lower than 3% of ladies who weren’t screened. Their estimated overdiagnosis rate was 47%. Finally, 3% of ladies ages 85 and older who were screened were found to have breast cancer, compared with 1% of ladies within the not screened group. For the older group, the overdiagnosis rate was 54%.

“Although our study focused on overdiagnosis, it is important to recognize that overdiagnosis is only one of many considerations in deciding whether to continue screening,” said researcher and Yale Assistant Professor of Medicine Ilana Richman, MD, in a opinion“The decision to screen must also take into account the patient’s preferences and values, his or her personal risk factors, and the overall balance of risks and benefits of screening.”