That’s “a very encouraging message,” said Dr. Elena Elkin, a breast cancer researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center who was not involved with the study. “More of the breast cancers we find are very small and diagnosed at an early stage. For older women especially these cancers generally have a favorable diagnosis,” she told Reuters Health.
More than 200,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the U.S., and a woman’s risk of getting the disease increases as she gets older.
There is ongoing debate in the medical community, however, over whether routine screening for certain cancers will actually extend lives, particularly in older people whose life expectancy is likely to be influenced by other health issues, such as heart disease.
In the current study, researchers compared the life expectancy and causes of death in women age 67 and older who were diagnosed with breast cancer and in a similar group of women without breast cancer.
By consulting a register of cancer diagnoses in Medicare patients, the authors, led by Dr. Mara Schonberg of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Brookline, Massachusetts, were able to identify almost 65,000 older women who were diagnosed with breast cancer of any stage between 1992 and 2003. For comparison, they collected information for a group of about 170,000 women of similar age, also on Medicare, who were not diagnosed with breast cancer.
Knowing the odds of receiving a breast-cancer diagnosis as a female helps to emphasize the importance of proper breast health. Dr. O’Toole informs his patients, especially breast augmentation patients that monthly breast self exam is an excellent tool in the early detection of breast cancer. Patients should become familiar with the consistency and feel of their breast tissue without regard to the breast implant. Mammograms should be performed yearly after age 40 unless there is a history of breast cancer and then it would be more often. Patients should seek the advice of their primary care physician to determine the schedule he or she would recommend.
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