Use of Mammography by Women Aged 75 and Over: Factors Related to Health, Functioning and Age

Blustein, J. & Weiss, L.J.
J American Geriatrics Society. 1998;46:1-6.

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Mammographic screening for breast cancer is of uncertain clinical benefit for women 75 years of age and older. Some have argued against instituting routine screening in this age group, noting that disability and shorter life expectancy may diminish the desirability and cost-effectiveness of screening. We sought to determine the extent to which health, functioning, and age influence mammography use in this cohort. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A retrospective cohort study of a representative sample of women in the US aged 75 and older (n = 2352) who participated in the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey. MEASURES: Information about general health, level of functioning, medical history, age, and various sociodemographic characteristics elicited in the survey was linked with subjects' Medicare bills for 1991 and 1992 to ascertain patterns of mammography use. RESULTS: Overall, 26.7% of the women had mammograms during the 2-year period. Advanced age was associated with a decreased likelihood of receiving a mammogram. This did not reflect simply the decline in health and functioning that may accompany aging; those aged 85 and older were less likely to receive mammograms than those in the 75 to 79 age group, controlling for general health, medical history, functional status, and sociodemographic factors (adjusted OR = .41; 95% CI = 0.27 to 0.64). ADL limitations were also associated independently with decreased mammography use. For example, controlling for age, women with any limitations in Activities of Daily Living were 0.71 times as likely to have mammograms as women without ADL limitations (95% CI = 0.59 to 0.85). However, several comorbid conditions, including hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and a history of myocardial infarction were not significantly related to mammography use. CONCLUSIONS: Within the cohort of women aged 75 and older, more advanced age and impaired functional status both substantially reduce the likelihood of mammography use. The extent to which this reflects patients' informed decisions, physicians' judgments, or other factors remains to be explored.

Wagner Faculty