Strategies for Improving Quality of Life in Older Patients with Metastatic Breast Cancer
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Given both the increase in the mean age of the population of Western countries and the high incidence of breast cancer beyond the age of 65 years, it is evident that breast cancer in older women will be a very common problem for the medical oncologist. Metastatic breast cancer is still not amenable to a cure; therefore quality of life during therapy is an important issue, which until recently has been poorly investigated. Similarly, despite recent advances in breast cancer therapy, physicians have been reluctant to enrol older patients in clinical trials, and there is a lack of data regarding this population. This review focuses on quality-of-life issues during metastatic breast cancer treatment in geriatric patients, comparing the standard therapeutic options and newer approaches. Although first-line endocrine therapy with tamoxifen remains a standard treatment, the newer third-generation aromatase inhibitors provide similar or better efficacy with fewer adverse effects and a better quality of life. It has been a common belief that chemotherapy impairs quality of life, but recent studies in advanced breast cancer have shown that this therapy has a positive effect on quality of life, at least in responders. Consequently, chemotherapy should not be denied to elderly patients with metastatic breast cancer, provided a prior geriatric assessment is performed to evaluate the risk-benefit ratio. New chemotherapy strategies, such as the taxanes and orally administered chemotherapy, represent a very attractive alternative for a better quality of life in elderly patients with metastatic breast cancer.