It may have caught your attention over the past decade, October has become a synonym of the color pink. It has happened for a reason; October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We’ve noticed clothing companies selling lots of pink, beauty companies selling limited-edition products in pink packages, NFL players wearing pink sneakers, with the intention of raising awareness for breast cancer.
Even though it is a good thing to purchase products that donate a portion of the proceeds to cancer organizations, breast cancer awareness is only one part of the bigger picture. During October it is really important to discuss the signs and preventative measures of breast cancer, especially in older women. Sometimes, the course of prevention that is recommended for older women can be confusing.
What is True or False when it comes down to detecting breast cancer in older women
True: Having regular mammogram screenings can save your life
The nonprofit organization, Susan G.Komen, says that regular mammogram screenings are highly beneficial and life-saving for women between the ages of 50 and 69. Regular mammograms help to detect breast cancer in early stages. Statistics provided by Susan G.Komen show that women between the ages of 50 - 59 who had mammograms regularly, had a 14 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer than women who did not get regular mammograms. And also women between the ages of 60 – 69 who had mammograms regularly, had a 33 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer than women who did not get mammograms.
False: Mammogram screening doesn’t benefit women older than 75
A 2014 study published in JAMA claimed that when it came down to making mammogram recommendations, doctors should first focus on the life expectancy for older female patients. The study included a review of scientific studies by experts at San Francisco, University of California and Harvard Medical Schools, which suggested that older women did not need mammograms because there was no such evidence.
Other research found that women of all ages could benefit from regular mammograms because there is no maximum breast cancer screening age. Another study from 2014 published in the journal Radiology analyzed data from 1,162 women aged 75 and older diagnosed with breast cancer between 1990 to 2011. The researchers found that 70 percent of cancers were detected by a mammogram for those diagnosed between 2010 and 2011. Research now supports the benefits of older women having regular mammogram screenings, maybe because of the advancements in technology, or a greater sense of breast cancer awareness within the medical community.
True: Women aged 50 and older should have mammograms every one to two years
The American Cancer Society recommends that women over 50 should detect breast cancer early by getting a mammogram screening every one to two years. Supporting data was presented at the annual meeting of American Association for Cancer Research showing that “women aged 75 and older who had a breast cancer diagnosis and an interval of 2-5 years between their last mammogram had an 87% increased risk of death from breast cancer compared with women who had mammograms at 6 months up to a year before diagnosis.’’
Signs of breast cancer to look out for at home
Women can check themselves for signs of breast cancer, and keep an eye out for dangerous symptoms at home in between mammograms. According to the American Cancer Society, the most common signs of breast cancer are:
- Breast or nipple pain
- The appearance of a new mass or lump in one or both breasts, typically painless and irregular in size and shape
- Swelling of all or part of the breast, with or without the presence of a lump
- Skin irritation or dimpling, which can resemble an orange peel
- Nipple discharge
- Swollen lymph nodes, because cancer often spreads to the lymph nodes before it is detected in the breast
If you recognize any of the above-mentioned symptoms of breast cancer, it is advisable to see your physician. Women should often examine their breasts themselves at home, and not having to depend on a mammogram to check their body for cancer on a regular basis.
It can be a life savior if you take preventative measures to ensure your health and wellness as you age. A Medical Guardian medical alert device gives you and your loved ones a way of being proactive about aging. You may want to put a safety net before you need it, in order to ensure you are taken care of in case of a medical emergency.
We can Help! Our local advisors can help your family make a confident decision about senior living.