Breast Cancer in the Elderly: An Observational Study Investigating Compliance of Screening Mammography in an Underserved Community

Shruti Sharma, Dixita Patel, Sushma Pavuluri, Amy Stein, Binal Patel, Nadia Qureshi, Imran Hasnuddin, Tsvetelina Todorova, Krishnan Srinivasan, Masood Ghouse


Background: The incidence of breast cancer increases with age. Individuals living in higher socioeconomic communities also have higher incidence secondary to early detection of breast cancer from increased accessibility to mammograms. This retrospective study studied the percentage of new breast cancer cases in the elderly between 2010 and 2019, and investigated the compliance of screening mammography in some of the medically underserved suburbs of southern Chicago.

Methods: The parameters used to power this study include “age greater than 70” and “2010 to present” at the time the study was first initiated. The final data set contained 381 electronic health records (EMRs) that met the parameters of interest. We specifically looked at method of diagnosis, stage at diagnosis, date of last normal screening mammogram, hormone status, histology, race, and smoking history.

Results: Thirty percent of the breast cancer patients diagnosed at our institution were over 70 years of age between 2010 and 2019. Of the 381 patients included in the overall sample, 45% were diagnosed with breast cancer by screening mammogram, and 52% of individuals in the 70 - 75 age group were diagnosed with breast cancer by screening mammography. Only 40% of individuals in the 75+ age group were diagnosed with breast cancer by screening mammogram (P = 0.0234). Furthermore, in the overall sample, 63% had a normal screening mammogram at some time prior to their breast cancer diagnosis. In the 70 - 75 age group, 76% had a normal screening mammogram at some time prior to their breast cancer diagnosis. In the 75+ age group, only 54% had a normal screening mammogram at some time prior to their breast cancer diagnosis (P < 0.0001). Individuals in both age groups were more likely to have early-stage breast cancers and luminal A hormone expression.

Conclusions: Decreased compliance to screening mammography is observed in the elderly living in underserved communities. Since the elderly are underrepresented in research, organizations do not have sufficient information to recommend screening mammography in the elderly. With increasing life expectancy, observational studies have demonstrated a mortality benefit with screening mammography by early detection of breast cancer, favorable breast cancer characteristics and potentially higher cure rates. Socioeconomic factors also affect screening compliance and likely influenced the results of our study. Future studies should investigate how individual factors influence screening mammography compliance in the elderly in underserved communities.

World J Oncol. 2021;12(5):155-164


Breast cancer; Prevention; Diagnosis; Cancer epidemiology; Underserved communities; Elderly

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