, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 161-169

Management issues for elderly patients with breast cancer

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Opinion statement

Fifty percent of breast cancers occur after the age of 65 years and 25% occur after the age of 75 years. Encountering a breast cancer in an older woman is frequent. After years of dearth of data specific to the elderly, some evidence is beginning to accumulate concerning breast cancer in the older woman. Recent data from mammography studies confirm its effectives in women with 10 years or more of life expectancy (perhaps even 5 years). Epidemiologic and randomized studies demonstrate that a proper surgery and adjuvant treatment can decrease relapse and improve survival in patients older than 80 years. Radiation therapy studies show a decrease in local relapse even in patients older than 70 years. Adjuvant hormonal therapy has essentially the same effectiveness as in younger women. Chemotherapy has a role in patients older than 70 years. Consensus statements, such as the St. Gallen consensus, have dropped the age limit of 70 years from their recommendations. Comorbidity and life expectancy should be taken into account for proper selection of adjuvant treatment. The treatment of metastatic breast cancer has evolved significantly with the introduction of aromatase inhibitors, new chemotherapeutic agents, and targeted biologic agents. New chemotherapeutic agents are as effective as single agents compared to older and more toxic drug combinations. The cumulative result of the introduction of these new agents, at a population level, is a 7.5-month increase in the median survival time of patients with metastatic breast cancer over the past decade.