How old is too old for a mammogram?

At what age should you stop having a mammogram? — Angie's List member Elsy Maciak

Controversy remains regarding when women should start mammography screening, at what interval to screen and when to stop, says Dr. Pamela Otto, director of the breast imaging center at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

"The guidelines we use are those of the American Cancer Society that recommend annual screening starting at age 40," Otto says. "As for when to stop, we recommend continuing screening mammography as long as one is fairly healthy."

By fairly healthy, she says a woman should not have significant health problems that would already impact her life expectancy greater than a diagnosis of breast cancer.

The mammography controversy erupted in 2009 when the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released new guidelines that recommended mammograms every two years for women aged 50 to 74.

The American Cancer Society, however, responded that its experts reviewed the same clinical data available to the USPSTF and still recommend annual screenings for women starting at age 40. Under the Affordable Care Act, the mammograms are considered a preventative service and fully covered by that point.

The bottom line is if you're 70, 80 or even 90 years old and you expect to live at least four more years, get screened, Otto advises.

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Since one out of every eight invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, yearly mammogram screenings are recommended starting at age 40, says Ochsner (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)
Since one out of every eight invasive breast cancers are found in women younger than 45, yearly mammogram screenings are recommended starting at age 40, says Ochsner (Photo by Katie Jacewicz)

One highly rated provider shares some common questions associated with breast cancer and provides answers for those wondering if they should get screened.


Thermography, a safer alternative to mammograms, is not only safer, it can also show aberrant breast tissue before it can be detected with mammography. Alternative Docs often provide the service but most insurance plans don't cover it...yet.

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My mom had a double mastectomy at age 92. If she'd had mammograms we might have caught it sooner. The good news is she survived to be 100 +. Don't neglect any tests that are crucial to your survival.

Radiation can cause cancer having Mamograms over the many years. Wherease Thermography is no Radiation and Safe and is endorsed by the United Breast Cancer Foundation. no more XRAYS for me

medical thermography is much safer than X-rays for breast check up. No radiation with Thermography.

I have had mammograms since I was forty. I now am seventy and I do not plan to stop at 74. I plan to continue until something morbid is diagnosed for me.

Mamograms can cause way too many FALSE alarms and unneccessary biopsies. I was told I had a "serious problem" with a small lump. I refused to belive that and went to talk directly with the Radiologist who admitted to me it was nothing more than calcification that MANY women in their 40's have. Had I listened to the clinic iwould have nded up up wit ha painful, UNNECCESSARY needle biopsy for NOTHING! Do your OWN research before you let those greedy doctors cut you!

I had my mastectomy at age 35 after finding a lump. Mammography confirmed the diagnosis. I am 71 now, and I have a mammogram every year or two. I expect that will continue until I die, unless the government decides I may no longer have the exam. My 87-year-old mother was undiagnosed by her physician who did not think the lump was breast cancer. She finally was diagnosed about five years ago, but by then, the cancer had metastasized to her lungs and bones.

2 months before my 71st birthday cancer was discovered (very small) in my left breast. That was by mammogram exactly 1 year from the last one. I had lumpectomy & 41 days of radiation. Many checks since that time I am now on a yearly schedule - I will never not get a yearly mammogram

I agree completely. The odds of an 80-year old getting cancer are twice that of a 40-year old. It's just math.

An 80 year old (after having decades of radiation through mammograms) has twice the chance of cancer because of all the radiation from the yearly mammograms! And why are doctors in med school told to be careful/gentle with women's breasts, and then prescribe a flesh-crushing mammogram? The mammogram machine can crush the cancer cells and then the cancer can spread.

I am uncomfortable with your writing articles on healthcare. A freelancer, and yourself, does not have the background to evaluate such an area of expertise.

To me there is not limit if there is a potential problem - screening up to 74 is a good start but we women are living longer and want to live better.

i am an oncology nurse working for a group of breast surgeons. thermography is a complete waste of time, not sensitive enough - digital mammography and self exams are the way to go. mammos give minimal radiation exposure - dont be penny smart and pound foolish.

I know this is about when to stop having them, but I got cancer at the age of 28 - don't wait until 40, especially if there is a family history. Two years after mine, my Mother was diagnosed in the exact same spot.

WOW. I rarely read these articles but this one was of interest to me as a woman who has a family history of breast cancer, lost my mother to another form of cancer because she ignored symptoms and finally because my grandmother is in her 90s and I wanted to know what the consensus is on mammography for a woman of that age. First, the writer of the article who was attacked in one comment only states facts garnered from reputable sources. To that person I recommend you read the article again. Only the last sentence is an opinion. Then there is the comment from the woman who goes on about "false alarms" and "greedy doctors." If you are going to a facility that allows technicians to diagnose, you need to find someplace else to get your mammograms. I have had numerous masses show up on my mammos and NEVER has a technician said anything to scare me or that sounded like a diagnosis. I always meet with the radiologist and not at my insistence. That is how it is supposed to be done. I have never had a painful biopsy or an unnecessary surgery. And yes I have had breast surgery for a blocked duct. I found a good reputable doctor plus I got a second opinion which is always a good idea when cutting is involved. I don't know enough about thermography to comment but holistic practitioners don't have all the answers either if they did maybe my mother would be alive and so would the husband of the practitioner that treated her. Both died of cancer. I do think (this is just my opinion and I believe there is a place for holistic approaches) that people who see holistic doctors often let things that need more specialized attention go because they put too much trust in one philosophy over another. Live Well.

I am 70 years old & a lump was disscovered during my yearly mammography. A core biopsy showed cancer and I had a lumpectomy. It was small & no lymph node involvement. If I did not have yearly mammograms, how big would it have been. I will continue forever!

I began mammograms at 40. My daughter began at 20 due to a strong family history of cancer on my spouses side of family.

I'm a relatively healthy almost 52 year old that has had a fine-needle biopsy and it was not painful. I think this ofrum is great-I had never heard of Thermography (I have since had a questionable mammogram). These tests are a blessing for early detection, but a moderate and pro-active approach to our own health is always necessary I believe.

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