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Older Women Have Fewer Mammograms Than is Reported

The study was not designed to illuminate the reasons for the gap between actual mammograms received and self-reported data — only to measure it. But Kagay surmises that several factors may be at play.

“Some respondents may misremember a screening mammogram from, for example, three years ago as having occurred more recently than it actually did,” he said. “Alternatively, some women may know that they ‘should’ be screened, and may therefore unconsciously tend to over-report their own screening.”

The study has practical clinical implications for physicians, according to Kagay. “We’re not as close to our goal of screening all the elderly women who might be able to benefit from breast cancer therapy as we thought we were. That’s feedback referring physicians can use as they assess their own referral patterns.”

“This study highlights once again the need for awareness and education about the benefits of screening, especially in the aging population where the risk for breast cancer is the greatest,” said Cheryl Perkins, M.D., senior clinical advisor for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

“By examining data from Medicare, this study has highlighted the differences between data interpretation based on clinical records versus self-reported data,” said Perkins. “Self-reported data may inaccurately represent the true screening levels in a given population.”

“These findings could have significant impact on how we interpret future population data,” she added.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer of women in the United States, affecting more than 211,000 American females each year. Deaths from breast cancer are highest in women under 35 and in women older than 75. Yet it is predominantly a disease of older women, with a woman’s chances of getting breast cancer increasing as she ages.

If more women were screened, it is possible that more breast cancer would be discovered, and it could be treated at an
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