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Chemotherapy After Breast Cancer Surgery Effective for Older Women, Too
Date:2/17/2008

But many patients aren't getting the lifesaving treatment, research reveals,,,,

SUNDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- It's clear that chemotherapy after breast cancer surgery increases survival rates. But many older women aren't being offered this potentially lifesaving treatment.

But, age shouldn't be a deciding factor -- an older woman's general health appears to be a better predictor of positive results after chemotherapy, according to a study published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Age alone should not be a contraindication to the use of optimal chemotherapy regimens in older women who are in good general health," the study authors said.

About half of all breast cancers in the United States occur in women older than 65. Past studies have shown that chemotherapy after breast cancer surgery increases the odds of disease-free survival in women between the ages of 50 and 69. But little information has been available for treating women over 70, the study authors said.

One important concern is that older women may experience more toxic side effects from chemotherapy. That's because the kidneys often function less effectively with age, and there's not as great a bone marrow reserve for generating new blood cells in older people.

"There's always been a concern that older women with breast cancer might be under-treated," said Dr. Yelena Novik, an oncologist at New York University Medical Center in New York City. "In clinical trials, the proportion of women over 70, and especially over 75, is very small, so it's hard to know the benefits and the risks. It's understood that older women are more likely to have other medical problems, such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes, so the question is, should they be offered the same treatment as younger women?"

To answer that question, researchers from cancer centers around the country reviewed data from
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