Should You Still Have Mammograms After Age 75?

Should You Still Have Mammograms After Age 75?

Medically reviewed by Dr. Douglas Blayney on June 26, 2024.


As a breast cancer survivor, I know how scary mammograms can seem. But they’re important because they can help find breast cancer early, sometimes even before you can feel a lump. Women over 40 usually get regular mammograms, but what about after age 75? Today, with help from our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Douglas Blayney, we’re going to talk about whether you should keep getting mammograms as you get older and how Manta Cares can support you.

I remember my first mammogram. It was a bit uncomfortable, but I quickly learned how important it was. But what happens when we get older? Should we keep getting them? Many women over 75 ask this, and it's a good question. It’s about weighing the good and the bad and then determining what’s right for you.

Why This Question Matters

Breast cancer doesn’t just go away as we get older. About 20% of new breast cancer cases are found in women aged 75 and older. This shows why it’s important to think about continuing mammograms. I've seen many women struggle with this decision, especially when guidelines are different. Some say keep going if you're healthy, while others are more hesitant. Let’s break it down so you can figure out what makes sense for you.

Understanding how common breast cancer is in older women is important. As we age, our bodies change, and while some might think the risk of breast cancer goes down, that's not true. Age is a big risk factor. This means that as we get older, we need to stay alert with our health checks. It’s about being proactive and informed so you can make the best choices for your health.

Screening and early cancer detection

The rationale for cancer screening is to detect cancers at earlier and potentially more curable stages. Breast cancer screening has three components – breast self examination, examination by a physician or other trained and experienced professional, and imaging, including mammograms.  Breast self examination is low cost and relatively effective.  If you feel a lump which lasts longer than a month, get it checked out.

Mammograms use low dose X-rays to detect abnormalities in the breast.  Mammograms rely on detecting the difference between fat in the breast and other breast tissues such as the support structures, calcium deposits and milk glands of the breast. Young women have less fat in their breast tissue, and older women have more fat. So, mammograms are more accurate in older women, and there is less need for alternative screening procedures such ultrasound or MRI.

Another useful observation to bear in mind is that breast cancer in older women is more often estrogen receptor positive, often more slowly growing, and less likely to have early spread to other parts of the body.    

The Benefits of Continued Screening

Let’s talk about why you might want to keep those mammogram appointments. First, mammograms can save lives by finding cancer early. Early detection means more treatment options and better outcomes. Now, with advancements like Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) or 3D mammography, these screenings are even better. DBT gives a clearer picture of the breast tissue, improving cancer detection rates and reducing false positives. This means fewer unnecessary scares and more accurate results. The peace of mind that comes from knowing you’re doing everything you can for your health is invaluable.

When we talk about early detection, we’re really talking about giving ourselves the best chance. Breast cancer caught early is often more treatable and may need less aggressive treatments. This can significantly affect your quality of life. And let's not forget the emotional aspect—knowing that you’re watching your health can bring a great sense of control and peace.

Evaluating Risks: What You Need to Know

Of course, there are concerns. False positives and overdiagnosis are real issues. A false positive can lead to anxiety, more tests, and sometimes unnecessary treatments. It’s not just about the physical toll but the emotional one as well. For women with other serious health issues or a short life expectancy, the benefits of finding slow-growing cancers might not outweigh the stress and harm of the screening process. It’s all about balancing the benefits and risks based on your personal health situation.

It's important to understand what a false positive means. Imagine the stress of being told something might be wrong, only to find out after more tests that it was a false alarm. This can be very stressful emotionally and physically. The anxiety that comes with these scares can be significant, especially for older women who might already have other health issues.

Over diagnosis is another important thing to consider. This happens when a mammogram finds a cancer that wouldn’t have caused any problems during a woman's lifetime. Treating such cancers can lead to unnecessary procedures, which carry their own risks and side effects. For women with shorter life expectancy or multiple health issues, the potential benefits of finding a very slow-growing cancer might not be worth the risks and stress of more tests and treatments.

Medical Expertise: Guidance from Dr. Douglas Blayney

Dr. Douglas Blayney, our Chief Medical Officer at Manta Cares, says that the decision to continue mammograms after 75 should be personalized. Factors like your overall health, life expectancy, and personal risk factors should guide your choice. It’s essential to have regular talks with your healthcare provider to make sure your decision is based on the most current and relevant information. This personalized approach ensures that you’re making the best decision for your unique situation.

Dr. Blayney often talks about the importance of individualized healthcare. No two women are the same, and our health needs can be very different. By considering factors such as your current health status, family history of breast cancer, and personal risk factors, you and your doctor can make a well-informed decision together. It’s not just about the statistics; it’s about what’s right for you personally.

Dr. Blayney also talks about the role of ongoing research and new medical advances. New findings and technologies keep coming out, and staying updated can help you make better decisions. Regular talks with your healthcare provider ensure that you’re aware of the latest recommendations and can adjust your screening plans accordingly.

Decision-Making Tools

To help you make an informed choice, there are great tools available, like the interactive quiz from UCSF’s decision aid for mammography in older women. These tools can help you assess your health status and preferences, giving you a structured way to think through your options. It’s all about making sure you have the information you need to make the best decision for you.

Decision-making tools are very helpful because they give a personalized approach to understanding your health needs. These quizzes and checklists take into account your medical history, current health, and personal preferences, offering tailored advice that can guide your decisions. They can also highlight areas you might not have thought about, ensuring you have a full view of your options.

Additionally, these tools can be a great starting point for conversations with your healthcare provider. With insights from these aids, you can have more informed and productive talks, ensuring that your healthcare decisions are well thought out and personalized. It's about giving you the knowledge and resources you need to take control of your health journey.

Our team “gets it”

The Manta Cares team is composed of cancer survivors, caregivers and oncologists - so we truly understand the challenges that come with a cancer diagnosis because we’ve been there. We are here to walk with you as you go through your own cancer experience. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and check out our free resources like our Chemotherapy Checklist for Caregivers, Financial Checklist for Cancer Treatment and more. We also put out a bi-weekly podcast called the Patient from Hell to educate, empower and hopefully inspire you as you go through this crappy experience. You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or anywhere you listen to podcasts. Dealing with cancer as a patient or caregiver can feel really lonely. Just know that you are not alone in this experience.


Deciding whether to continue mammograms after age 75 is a personal choice that should be made with your healthcare team. By weighing the benefits and risks and considering your health status, you can make an informed decision that’s right for you. Remember, you’re not alone—Manta Cares is here to support you every step of the way


At what age is it no longer necessary to have a mammogram? 

There is no set age when mammograms are no longer necessary. The decision should be based on an individual's overall health, life expectancy, and personal preferences. It's important to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

How common is breast cancer after 75? 

Breast cancer remains relatively common in women over 75. Approximately 20% of new breast cancer cases are diagnosed in women aged 75 and older.

How often should a 77-year-old get a mammogram? 

The frequency of mammograms for a 77-year-old should be determined based on their health status and in consultation with their healthcare provider. Annual (every year) or semi annual (every other year) screenings might still be beneficial for healthy women.

Why are mammograms not recommended after age 75? 

Mammograms may not be recommended after age 75 if the risks, such as false positives and overdiagnosis, outweigh the benefits, especially for women with limited life expectancy or significant health issues. It's important to make this decision with your healthcare provider.

Why no mammograms after 70? 

There is no strict rule against mammograms after 70. However, the decision should be based on individual health status, life expectancy, and personal preferences. Some guidelines suggest that the benefits of mammograms may decrease as women age, particularly for those with significant health issues.

Does Medicare cover mammograms after age 75? 

Yes, Medicare covers screening mammograms once every 12 months for women aged 40 and older, including those over 75.

At what age should a woman stop having mammograms? 

There is no set age for stopping mammograms. Women should discuss their individual health status and risk factors with their healthcare provider to make an informed decision.

Guidelines for mammograms after age 70 

Guidelines for mammograms after age 70 vary. Some recommend continuing regular screenings based on individual health and risk factors, while others suggest that women may choose to stop if they have significant health issues or a limited life expectancy. It's best to consult with a healthcare provider.

How often do you need a mammogram after age 65? 

After age 65, the frequency of mammograms should be determined based on individual health status and risk factors. Many guidelines recommend continuing annual or biennial screenings, but this should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

Does an 83-year-old woman need a mammogram? 

Whether an 83-year-old woman needs a mammogram depends on her overall health, life expectancy, and personal preferences. It's important to discuss this with her healthcare provider to make an informed decision.

Should an 80-year-old get mammograms? 

An 80-year-old should consider getting mammograms based on her health status and in consultation with her healthcare provider. The decision should take into account her overall health, life expectancy, and personal preferences.

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