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Optimal breast cancer screening strategies for older women: current perspectives

Authors Braithwaite D, Demb J, Henderson L

Received 18 August 2015

Accepted for publication 11 November 2015

Published 3 February 2016 Volume 2016:11 Pages 111—125


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Walker

Dejana Braithwaite,1 Joshua Demb,1 Louise M Henderson2

1Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California, San Francisco, CA, 2Department of Radiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

Abstract: Breast cancer is a major cause of cancer-related deaths among older women, aged 65 years or older. Screening mammography has been shown to be effective in reducing breast cancer mortality in women aged 50–74 years but not among those aged 75 years or older. Given the large heterogeneity in comorbidity status and life expectancy among older women, controversy remains over screening mammography in this population. Diminished life expectancy with aging may decrease the potential screening benefit and increase the risk of harms. In this review, we summarize the evidence on screening mammography utilization, performance, and outcomes and highlight evidence gaps. Optimizing the screening strategy will involve separating older women who will benefit from screening from those who will not benefit by using information on comorbidity status and life expectancy. This review has identified areas related to screening mammography in older women that warrant additional research, including the need to evaluate emerging screening technologies, such as tomosynthesis among older women and precision cancer screening. In the absence of randomized controlled trials, the benefits and harms of continued screening mammography in older women need to be estimated using both population-based cohort data and simulation models.

Keywords: aging, breast cancer, precision cancer screening

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