Surgery best for older women with breast cancer

 
By HSC Staff Writer • Published: May 1st, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
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Every two minutes an American woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, and the leading risk factor is age… simply growing older. Most breast cancers occur in women over age fifty, and women over sixty are at highest risk.

Surgery is normally the first stage of breast cancer treatment. Younger women with breast cancer often get chemo- and hormone therapy such as tamoxifen in addition to surgery, but women over seventy are usually prescribed tamoxifen only. The reason? Doctors figure that older patients are less likely to be fit for surgery.

A new review of recent studies, though, suggests surgery works better than hormone therapy to stop the progression of breast cancer in older women with operable tumors.

Surgery didn’t appear to extend survival length any over first-line hormone therapy. But two of the reviewed studies found that women can go longer without their breast cancer worsening if they have surgery. In fact, older women who had surgery alone or surgery combined with hormone therapy were half as likely to see their cancer progress over the course of the study as those who opted for hormone therapy only.

The study review, which examined seven studies of more than fifteen-hundred older women with operable breast cancer, appeared recently in The Cochrane Library, an international publication that evaluates medical research.

Several recent studies suggest elderly people are not treated as aggressively as their younger counterparts, although many of them respond well to more aggressive treatment.

Maybe that’s one trend… that’s getting old.