Should tamoxifen be a primary treatment choice for elderly breast cancer patients with locoregional disease?
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To determine the efficacy of tamoxifen as primary treatment for elderly breast cancer patients with locoregional disease, the medical records of 85 patients of 75 years and older were reviewed. The median follow-up was 28 months (range 3–97 mo). Complete remission occurred in twelve (14.1%) patients. All of these patients remained in remission until death or closing date of the study. Twenty (23.5%) patients responded with a partial remission; 5 of them subsequently developed tumor progression. Thirteen (15.3%) patients developed initial tumor progression and 39 (45.9%) had disease stabilisation. Nineteen of this latter group subsequently developed tumor progression. Out of 37 (43.5%) patients with tumor progression, 14 patients were salvaged by surgery (n = 13) or radiotherapy (n = 1). Until the closing date of the study, disease could not be controlled by secondary treatment in 12 patients who subsequently died of breast cancer. Twenty-two of the 37 patients were unfit for surgical treatment at progression, of whom 14 were operable at diagnosis. The actuarial 5-year observed survival rate was 40% for the whole patient group.
Conclusions: Although some patients (14.1%) managed to maintain a long lasting complete remission, caution should be preserved in using tamoxifen as first-line treatment, because of the high risk of treatment failures. As long as factors can not be identified to predict which subgroups of patients will respond to tamoxifen with a remission lasting for their life-time, tamoxifen may only provide an acceptable alternative for elderly breast cancer patients who are too frail or are unwilling to undergo surgery or radiotherapy. For elderly patients in good physical condition, primary treatment by tamoxifen only delays definitive surgical treatment.
Key wordsbreast cancer elderly tamoxifen treatment
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