Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says women over 75 may not need a mammogram, but local oncologist Dr. Steven Kalter of the START Center says it is worried that the research can be misinterpreted, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"We really have very few diagnostic tests that have actually been shown to save lives, and mammography is one of them," he said. "I am afraid that word will get out that we don't need mammograms."
The researchers say women over 75 should only consider mammography, and the risk of unnecessary cancer treatments, if they expect to live another decade or so. They say for women over 75, their greatest risk is not breast cancer, but age itself.
"The things that may be predictive in older women likely have to do with recent hormone exposure, such as lifelong obesity, high bone density, or taking hormones which are associated with higher estrogen levels," the researchers said in a statement. "Distant hormone exposures, such as the age a woman first got her period, may not make much difference in who gets breast cancer in this older population, because older age is the greatest risk factor for breast cancer."
The researchers went on to say that mammograms for women over the age of 75 may even be 'unhelpful.' But Dr. Kalter is worried about the impact of the study.
"When the oncologist gets word of a study that indicates that we don't need to do mammograms, it immediately sends out an alarm," he said.
But Dr. Kalter says breast cancer in most cases is a slowly progressing disease, and he understands the researchers' claims.
"A diagnosis of a very small breast cancer in a woman who is eighty," he said. "Chances are that it really won't change much in size, and will be unlikely to spread for years."
The current recommendation is for a breast cancer screening every two years for women between ages 50 and 74. Dr. Kalter says he hopes that nothing in this study dissuades patients or oncologists from continuing to utilize mammography as a diagnosis tool, because it is known to have saved millions of lives and is largely responsible for falling rates of breast cancer.
He says physicians should still utilize mammography in patients of any age if they feel the test would be useful