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Elderly breast cancer patients risk treatment discrimination
Date:9/22/2011

how that elderly breast cancer patients are more likely to die from something else other than from breast cancer for instance, age specific co-morbidities such as heart attack. However, for those not suffering from other conditions or those who have survived other conditions, deaths from breast cancer are higher compared to younger patients with the same tumour characteristics," he explains. "This probably means that old women with breast cancer are being under-treated as doctors think they will die from something else."

Several factors which can cause breast cancer mortality with increasing age, such as an age specific decrease in the function of the immune system on tumour progression, could potentially affect the results but cannot be easily assessed, says Prof. Markopoulos. "However, we observed that radiotherapy was administered less frequently and administration of chemotherapy sharply decreased with increasing age. Thus, it is most likely that under-treatment of the elderly may explain the worse age-specific breast cancer outcome found in our study," he says.

Underlying this situation is a false perception that the outlook for older women with breast cancer is relatively good, says Prof. Markopoulos. "This false impression is most likely due to deaths from other age-related conditions."

He goes on to say: "Several other studies have shown that elderly breast cancer patients have lower odds of receiving standard care, including deviations from guidelines for surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. More work should be done to clarify the picture in the elderly population, as patients of this age group are usually excluded from major clinical trials."

ECCO president, Professor Michael Baumann, said, "Elderly patients have often been considered as being not fit for state-of-the-art cancer care. A host of recent studies have shown that it is not age per se, but rather the status of health that are important parameters for pred
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Contact: Saffina Rana
saffina.rana@europe.com
ECCO-the European CanCer Organisation
Source:Eurekalert

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