What seniors need to know about mammograms

Ladies, it's only natural to worry about your breast cancer risk -- especially if you've already gone a round or two against this disease.

Sure, you may have won that fight. But there's always a chance the disease is training for a rematch.

As a result, most breast cancer survivors never question mammograms.

But now's the time to start asking questions, as new research reveals how tens of thousands of breast cancer survivors are being exposed to unnecessary risk by being pushed into screenings they shouldn't get and don't need.

That's not just based on my opinion -- that's going by mainstream scientists, who say that mammograms past the age of 70 often don't make sense for most women.

Even if you've had cancer, the tumors grow so slowly that you'll almost certainly outlive them.

Yet the new study finds many women are getting screened just the same.

Two-thirds of older breast cancer survivors who reach the point where they have a life expectancy of less than 10 years are still getting mammograms.

Even worse, nearly 60 percent of older women expected to live less than five years are still routinely getting screened.

I won't say no one ever needs a mammogram at those ages. There are cases where it certainly might be necessary to have one.

But it shouldn't be anything close to those numbers, which show that mammograms are still far too routine for too many doctors and patients alike -- especially when you consider the very real downsides to the screening.

First, there's the notorious risk of a false positive, which can lead to painful biopsies and the risk of infection... not to mention the stress of thinking you have cancer, even when it turns out you don't.

Secondly, if a tumor is discovered, it often doesn't need treatment. As I mentioned, there's little chance it'll pose much of a threat if you're past the age of 70.

But if you know it's there, you might become so unsettled that you'll put yourself through surgery and chemo even if you don't need them!

Those are tough treatments to withstand at any age, as you might know firsthand. When you're older, they're even tougher -- and they can sap you of your quality of life in your golden years.

And third: In most cases, a tumor that might truly need treatment -- even if you're older -- can be detected with other methods, including an ordinary physical examination during your checkup.

Bottom line here is that mammograms shouldn't be routine at that age for anyone. Talk to a doctor and consider all your options first, and only have the screening if it's truly necessary.