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Breast Cancer Screening Burdens Elderly?

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Among people in their 70s and 80s, breast cancer screenings often detect slow-growing tumors that are unlikely to cause problems in patients’ lifetimes.

My mom, Mary, was given a mammorgram a couple of years ago. Mom was diagnosed with early breast cancer at the age of 75 in 2006 and had a lumpectomy, local radiation and five years of tamoxifen. Mom’s most recent mammorgram revealed more DCIS. So mom had another lumpectomy.

I am a long-term cancer survivor. I struggle with a host of long-term and late stage side effects. My cancer care was also from University Hospitals. I can’t help but wonder if both my mom and I were overrated.

While mom doesn’t exactly fit the profile below she is pretty close. Two years ago mom had a little dementia, not “severe cognitive impairment.” And though mom was in her eighties I can’t say that her life expectancy was “limited.” But I’m her son so I guess I’m not a good judge of that.

I’m no expert, of course, but I have wondered about mom’s atrial fibrillation. I wonder if the radiation she underwent for her original earlier breast cancer caused it.

In any case, the article linked below seems to question my mom’s mammorgram and lumpectomy. I wonder myself.

Did University Hospital of Cleveland overtreat my mom?

What are the risks and benefits of breast cancer screening?


  1. Early Detection: Screening mammograms can detect breast cancer at an early stage, often before symptoms develop, leading to earlier treatment and better outcomes.
  2. Improved Survival Rates: Detecting breast cancer early can increase the chances of successful treatment and higher survival rates.
  3. Treatment Options: Early detection allows for more treatment options, potentially reducing the need for aggressive treatments like chemotherapy or mastectomy.
  4. Peace of Mind: Regular screening can provide reassurance to women with normal results, offering peace of mind and reducing anxiety about the possibility of undetected cancer.


  1. False Positives: Screening mammograms can sometimes produce false-positive results, indicating the presence of cancer when there isn’t any. This can lead to unnecessary anxiety and additional testing, including biopsies.
  2. Overdiagnosis: Some breast cancers detected through screening may be slow-growing and may not cause harm during a woman’s lifetime. Overdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary treatments, which may have their own risks and side effects.
  3. Radiation Exposure: Mammograms use low doses of radiation, which, although generally safe, may slightly increase the risk of developing cancer over time, especially with repeated screenings.
  4. False Negatives: In some cases, breast cancer may not be detected by screening mammograms, leading to false-negative results and delayed diagnosis.
  5. Psychological Impact: Abnormal results or the fear of cancer can cause psychological distress and anxiety in some women, even if cancer is not present.

Have you been diagnosed with breast cancer? Have you ever had a false positive mammogram? Let me know David.PeopleBeatingCancer@gmail.com

To Learn More about breast cancer in elderly patients- click now-

David Emerson

  • Cancer Survivor
  • Cancer Coach
  • Director PeopleBeatingCancer

Epidemic of Screening Burdens Nation’s Older Patients

“Elena Altemus is 89 and has dementia. She often forgets her children’s names, and sometimes can’t recall whether she lives in Maryland or Italy.

Yet Elena, who entered a nursing home in November, was screened for breast cancer as recently as this summer. “If the screening is not too invasive, why not?” asked her daughter, Dorothy Altemus. “I want her to have the best quality of life possible.”

But a growing chorus of geriatricians, cancer specialists and health system analysts are coming forth with a host of reasons: Such testing in the nation’s oldest patients is highly unlikely to detect lethal disease, hugely expensive and more likely to harm than help since any follow-up testing and treatment is often invasive.

And yet such screening — some have labeled it “overdiagnosis” — is epidemic in the United States, the result of medical culture, aggressive awareness campaigns and financial incentives to doctors…

By looking for cancers in people who are unlikely to benefit, “we find something that wasn’t going to hurt the patient, and then we hurt the patient,” said Dr. Sei Lee, an associate professor of geriatrics at the University of California-San Francisco.

Nearly 1 in 5 women with severe cognitive impairment — including older patients like Elena Altemus — are still getting regular mammograms, according to the American Journal of Public Health — even though they’re not recommended for people with a limited life expectancy..

Among people in their 70s and 80s, cancer screenings often detect slow-growing tumors that are unlikely to cause problems in patients’ lifetimes. These patients often die of something else — from dementia to heart disease or pneumonia — long before their cancers would ever have become a threat…”


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