Study Shows Senior Women Least Likely to Get Mammograms

by Lois Etienne on January 10, 2011

in Senior Health and Safety

Senior Women in seattle washingtonQuestion: I’m having trouble convincing my friends, who are all in their 80s like me, of the importance of getting mammograms. Several say that because of their age they don’t see any point to it. A couple complained they wouldn’t have a way to get to the exam even if they wanted to go.

Convincing women – particularly senior women – to get their mammograms seems to be a common problem. Only half of eligible women in the U.S. and even less than half of senior citizens are getting their annual mammograms, even if they have Medicare or other insurance to pay for the procedure, according to data presented at the 33rd Annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. Researchers are puzzled why participation is so low.

The findings are particularly unusual considering the public outcry that resulted when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force last year recommended that the age of first mammogram be lifted from 40 to 50 years, at which biennial mammography begins. To date, no major insurance company or other organization has acted on that recommendation.

“Women reacted strongly to that recommendation with protests about their right to have an annual mammogram that should not be taken away,” said Milayna Subar, M.D., vice president and national practice leader for oncology at Medco Health Solutions, Inc. in N.J. “Interestingly, though, we found that a large percentage of women do not get regular mammograms.”

Average annual mammography rates were
● 47 percent for women aged 40 to 49 years,
● 54 percent for women aged 50 to 64 years and
● 45 percent for women aged 65 years and older

Mammography has been determined to be an effective way to identify breast cancer – the second leading cause of cancer in women – at its earliest stage. Medicare pays for screening mammograms once every 12 months for women age 40 and over that are covered by Medicare, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

If your friends are without transportation, encourage them to ask a friend for a ride or to hire a caregiver companion to take them. Home Instead Senior Care of Spokane and Seattle, WA employs CAREGivers who provide a variety of services to seniors including transportation. Whatever the case, it’s important that you try to convince your girlfriends that they need to have regular mammograms.

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