The experience of breast cancer in older women

breast cancer in older women

The Bupa Health Foundation Health and Wellbeing After Breast Cancer Study  has released interesting information concerning the the experience of breast cancer in older women.

The Bupa study followed 1683 Victorian women newly diagnosed with breast cancer.  One issue investigated was the concern that older women (considered women over the age of 70) diagnosed with cancer are not treated as aggressively as their younger counterparts. A possible reason for this is the women may have co-existing medical conditions limiting the treatments available for their breast cancer.

The Bupa study found the older women did have more co-morbidities [the presence of one or more additional disorders (or diseases) co-occurring with a primary disease or disorder]. The most common co-morbidities were high blood pressure and heart disease, particularly angina.

In regards to the surgery performed in the initial stages of treatment, both the older and younger groups had similar types – most opted for breast-conserving operations.

Chemotherapy was the more commonly used treatment for women in the younger group.  For women who had tumours that were hormone receptor positive and thus suitable for endocrine therapy such as tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitor drugs (AIs) such as anastrozole, younger and older women with breast cancer were equally as likely to be given this treatment. However, after five years, women in the older group were less likely to still be using tamoxifen or AIs. The most common reason for stopping these treatments were side-effects. The study thus gleaned older women were less likely to tolerate side effects than younger women on the same drugs.

For women who underwent a mastectomy, females in the older group were less likely to undergo breast reconstruction versus their younger counterparts.

Interestingly, in regards to wellbeing after five years of follow-up, a stronger sense of self-control and less anxiety was found in the older group of women.

In conclusion, despite the older group of women having more co-morbidities when diagnosed with breast cancer compared to the younger women, there was no evidence of treatment being less aggressive.

To learn more about breast disorders, please click on the booklet below.

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