Over the past few decades, advice on when women should begin and end having routine mammograms has changed at least once. Also, the frequency at which screenings should be undertaken has changed a few times as well. Sometimes, this is due to an increase (or decrease) in the number of actual tumors found and other times it is because of other factors such as the economy and the cost of mammograms, as well as research that indicates we are screening too often or not often enough. As evidence is forthcoming, advice changes accordingly and this is why there tends to be a disparity in terms of when women no longer need regular screenings.
Information Disseminated to Geriatric Caregivers
With record numbers of women reaching senior years, it is important that information be disseminated to geriatric caregivers who will ultimately be responsible for seeing to their patients being screened if needed. A geriatric nurse practitioner often oversees a patient’s files and determines when and if a screening becomes necessary. In fact, throughout geriatric nurse practitioner courses the recommendations are known to change so it is vital to keep current on advice being provided by groups such as the American Medical Association and the National Breast Cancer Foundation.
Oddly, Some Medical Groups Issue No Advice
Then there are the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Radiology that should be the groups to look to for current information and advice on when, how often and for how long women should be screened. Oddly, neither group has made recommendations on when women should stop being routinely screened.
This leaves many to wonder why elder women are being left out of the mix. Is it because metastatic breast cancer is unlikely by that age due to some biological factor that simply switches off or is it because they are older and are expected to ‘expire’ at some point soon? The sad thing is, the latter is what many people believe and that probably isn’t the case at all. Most likely there is evidence that indicates breast cancer presents in younger women, although that isn’t made clear either.
The Role of Geriatric Nurse Practitioner Programs in Breast Cancer Awareness
Because there tends to be so much controversy over whether or not women should be screened past 70 years of age, growing numbers of universities offering geriatric nurse practitioner programs are encouraging NPs to stay on top of current advice as it is issued and to weigh sources if there is more than one report coming out. Their duty is to see to the health of their patients, and as advice is either lacking or changing from time to time, it is incumbent upon them to proactively seek the latest data.
No one is more concerned with the health of elderly women than a geriatric nurse practitioner who is ultimately the one who decides when and how women in their practice should be screened. The only issue may be a reluctance on the part of Medicare to pay for a mammogram, but even that can be overridden. In any case, current understanding is that women should be routinely screened at least until the age of 70. After that, it’s the doctor or NP’s call.