More women over 70 are obtaining mammography screening

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More older women undergoing mammography due to increasing incidences of breast cancer. Screening is also more prevalent in older populations because of the National Health System’s Breast Screening Program (NHSBSP) extension in England, according to a new study published in the November issue of Radiography

First offered to women aged 50 to 70, the NHS-extension is now offered to women aged 47 to 73 as a trial. 

Researchers, led by Blossom Lake, MMedSci, of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust in England, sought to collect patient demographics and discover technical challenges associated with mammography screening in the older age group. They conducting a retrospective audit of the first year of screening extension of the Shropshire Breast Screening Program. The Program invites more than 23,000 patients a year for annual mammography screening. 

Examination timers were recorded from resultant digital images with activity recorded under normal working conditions. Imaging specialists also recorded technical challenges presented during the examination. 

  • In 2014-2015, prior to screening extension, 25,117 patients were screened. Of those patients, 552 (2.2 percent) were in the upper age extension group. 
  • In 2015-2016, after screening extension, 22,707 patients were screened. Of those patients, 1291 (5.7 percent) were in the upper age extension group. 
  • The breast screening extension has increased by 2.5 times the number of women aged 70 to 74. 
  • Data obtained from a representative month showed that 29 percent of patients over 70 needed extra time for positioning, 22 percent had difficulty in obtaining adequate positioning and 15 percent needed a relative to aid them. 

Researchers noted different technical adaptations, mostly minor, have been developed and are key to ensuring adequate images. Challenges—including seated examinations for patients with poor balance, Parkinson’s disease and pacemakers—have to be considered because they can affect image quality. Imaging specialists must ensure they have the adequate equipment and time if adaptation is required. 

“In the U.K., there is an increasingly older population and this combined with increased breast screening age can make mammography a challenge,” said Lake et al. “The aging process is associated with decreased mobility and increasing health issues and therefore an increased requirement to adapt standard techniques.”