I spend more time than I would like to at hospitals and clinics. I guess it is just part of the job. But last week I had to go for a visit for my own health. It was time for my annual mammogram. Now my tween-age daughter might say this is “TMI” or too much information. But I think…that this is actually the opposite. I think it is necessary for us to discuss important health issues at any age. And being informed and keeping the lines of communication open regarding breast health should be a priority.
According to Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, half of newly diagnosed women with breast cancer are over 60, and more than a fifth are over 70. Although the risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer increases with age, the chance of dying from it declines steadily. “Women who have lived to an advanced age do very well when treated for breast cancer,” says Dr. Hal Burstein, senior physician and breast cancer specialist at Harvard-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
But the path to early detection and effective treatment isn’t always clear for older women; once you’ve reached 75, there is no hard-and-fast schedule for screening or protocol for treatment. Instead, how often you should get a mammogram or the kind of treatment you undergo for early breast cancer is a decision for you to make with your doctor.
What are the risk factors?
The Mayo Clinic and National Cancer Institute list these primary risk factors:
- Chest radiation as a child
- Start of menarche before the age of 12
- Adolescent weight gain
- No pregnancy or late pregnancy (after 30)
- Lengthy use of oral contraceptives
- Post-menopausal weight gain
- Late menopause (after age of 50)
- Increased breast tissue density
It is important to keep your appointments for all regular checkups for women and men of all ages. What may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for a day can save your life.
You can find more information at http://www.cancer.org