According to an article in the Archives of Surgery, women with breast cancer who are 70 years or older may be undertreated in community hospitals.
Approximately 200,000 women are diagnosed annually with breast cancer in the United States. Approximately one out of every three of these women are 70 years of age or older. Several studies have indicated that elderly patients who are healthy derive the same benefits from treatment as their younger counterparts; however, physicians may be more inclined to provide less treatment for these patients.
Researchers from the University of Michigan recently evaluated data regarding the diagnosis and treatment of women aged 70 years or older with breast cancer. The data included 354 women diagnosed between 1992 and 2002 treated in a community hospital setting.
- Approximately half of the patients were treated with breast-conserving surgery. Radiation therapy was not given to 55% of these patients.
- Among patients whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, only 29% were treated with chemotherapy.
- Only 67% of patients who had hormone-positive breast cancer were treated with hormone therapy.
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The researchers concluded that it appears that elderly women with early breast cancer are undertreated in community hospital settings. Women who are 70 years or older and have been diagnosed with breast cancer should discuss individual risks and benefits of all treatment options with their physician.
Reference: Litvak D, Arora R. Treatment of Elderly Breast Cancer Patients in a Community Hospital Setting. Archives of Surgery . 2006; 141:985-990.
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