Q: My mother is 86. Should she still be undergoing cancer screening? At what age should someone stop screening, and is a person ever too old to undergo surgery or treatment for cancer?
Generally speaking, cancer screening should continue as long as a person is expected to live an additional 10 years or more with an acceptable quality of life. This is particularly true with breast cancer screening, which is recommended to start at the age of 40 years for most women. Similar to breast cancer, colon cancer screening should continue in the elderly based on their projected life span of an additional 10 years. The American Cancer Society suggests a tailored approach to colon cancer screening beyond the age of 75 years of age, suggesting that people should discuss screening with their healthcare provider based on their risk and health status after age 75 years. It is generally accepted that cervical cancer screening can stop after age 65 for women who have had regular pap smears with negative results. Of particular importance is that even if a women received the HPV vaccine, she should still follow the recommended cervical cancer screening guidelines for her age. Screening for lung cancer and prostate cancer should be based on individual risk factors and discussed with your healthcare provider.