Harvard Women's Health Watch

Screening after age 75

Screening guidelines often change after age 75. If you're in that age group, how do you decide which tests you need?

If you're close to age 75, you may have followed the same schedule for mammograms, Pap smears, and other screening tests for decades. And if you're like many women, you may be surprised that your physician is suggesting fewer tests or longer intervals between them. The practice seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom. After all, the risk for many degenerative diseases increases with age, so shouldn't older women be monitored even more closely? The answer is, "It depends on the woman."

By age 75, there's a growing disparity in "biological" age among women of the same chronological age. "I have patients who are quite frail and others who are in better shape than many 50-year-olds," says Dr. Monera Wong, clinical director of the Geriatric Medicine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Statistics back her up: at age 75, 25% of women live an average of 6.8 more years, 50% live an average of 11.9 more years, and 25% live an average of 17 more years.

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