Narrator: This is Science Today. A new study questions the practice of routinely encouraging elderly women in poor health to have mammograms. Dr. Louise Walter of the University of California, San Francisco, says their study suggests age-based cancer screening guidelines should be more individualized.
Walter: The idea was to try and bring screening more into thinking about the benefit and the risk in involving patient preferences in the decision, as opposed to just screening to a certain age and then stop - based on some guideline that you read.
Narrator: Walter says that's because there's so much variability in older patients.
Walter: For example, if you have a very healthy eighty-year old person - life expectancy of this person is going to be at least ten years. And they're therefore likely to benefit from screening, because usually screening's meant to detect something that occurs five to ten years down the road. So it's generally agreed that you have to have a five to ten year life expectancy if you're going to get any benefit from a cancer screening test. So you could see that person as potentially benefiting as opposed to a seventy-year old with severe congestive heart failure.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.