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Concerns about over-70s breast cancer treatment

Wednesday June 20th, 2018

Women over the age of 70 may be under-treated for breast cancer, according to the findings of a major UK audit.

A senior surgeon called for doctors to ensure these women are offered the best possible cancer treatments in the light of the findings.

The audit found that 20% fewer women over the age of 70 have surgery to remove cancer compared with those aged between 50 and 69. According to the audit, just 76% of over-70s received surgery compared with 96% of under-70s.

The National Audit of Breast Cancer in Older Patients is conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Association of Breast Surgery.

Age-related discrepancies were less for post-operative radiotherapy given to women who had breast conserving surgery, the audit found. This treatment was given to 80% of women in their 70s and 85% of those under 70. Some 36% of women over the age of 90 also had the treatment.

There were also huge discrepancies in the use of chemotherapy.

Among women with ER-negative disease, this was given to 23% of over-70s and 61% of under-70s. Similar proportions were found for HER2-positive disease.

The audit’s lead surgeon Professor Kieran Horgan said: “In some instances, it is not appropriate for an older woman to have surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy. However, all women should be offered treatment that is tailored to their type of tumour, general state of health, and individual preferences.

“The results of the audit should remind every NHS hospital in England and Wales to ensure that all their patients are being offered the most effective breast cancer treatment for them, regardless of their age.”

Lead oncologist Professor David Dodwell said: “Older women often have different needs to younger patients as they may be less suitable for surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

“However, we still need to find out more about the reasons why some older women are not undergoing these treatments.”

Tags: Cancer | NHS | Pharmaceuticals | UK News | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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