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Best Breast-Cancer Care Eludes Older Women
Date:10/21/2007

tion and hormonal therapy after surgery, and the rates of treatment were lowest among the oldest women.

The findings add to a growing body of medical literature examining the under-treatment of older breast cancer patients.

Dr. Rebecca Silliman, a professor of medicine and public health at Boston University and chief of the geriatric section at Boston Medical Center, noted that she and others have been reporting on this gap in care for many years. As a co-author of a recent article in the journal Cancer, she and her colleagues have even linked under-treatment to a higher risk of breast cancer recurrence in older women.

"What is really needed is better evidence for treatment efficacy in this age group, plus more accurate strategies for identifying those at risk of bad outcomes and matching treatment intensity to risk," she said. "This isn't being done as well as we would hope."

Dr. Arti Hurria, director of the aging and cancer research program at City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., is leading an effort to develop a geriatric assessment tool to improve the ability to predict how an older breast cancer patient will tolerate certain treatments and what the benefits of treatment will be.

"We've developed a geriatric assessment that's feasible to do within daily practice, and now we're looking to see how does the assessment predict how an individual will do if they receive a certain treatment, or if they don't," she said.

The tool is simple enough that most patients can provide the information themselves and complete the survey in less than 30 minutes, Hurria said. It asks about a patient's activity level, medical problems, social support, nutritional status, and psychological state, among other things.

The assessment seeks to gather information about a woman's life expectancy, tolerance to treatment and access to support systems that may be necessary to get through therapy, Hurria said
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