That is…if you are getting mammograms at all. The question on mammography screening for very old women has been a debatable one for some time. No randomized trials have been done on this population.
A recent study from three outpatient clinics in Boston tracked mammography screening and breast cancer outcomes in over 2000 women who were all over 80 years old. They were followed for 2-12 years (average 5 years).
Half the women had mammograms and the other half did not. What they found was that the effectiveness of mammogram was modest at best. There were 28 cases of breast cancer in the mammography group, and 20 in the group that did not undergo mammography. This group was diagnosed through clinician exam or was self-reported by the patient’s symptoms. Breast cancer caused 1 death in the mammography group and 2 deaths in the other group.
The interesting thing is that the women that had the screening done, 11% had false-positive mammograms that resulted in additional imaging tests or biopsies. In this age group, that’s a significant number. How would you like your 80+ year old mother or grandmother to undergo an unnecessary breast biopsy? Don’t know if it’s worth it over age 80.
Rsource: JW Gen Med April 15 2009, p. 67, and J Clin Oncol 2008; 26: 2482.