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Cancer Control. 2001 Sep-Oct;8(5):431-41.

Management of breast cancer in the older woman.

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  • 1Senior Adult Oncology Program, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute, Tampa, FL 33612, USA. balducci@moffitt.usf.edu



Approximately half of all breast cancer cases occur after age 65. Several aspects for the treatment of early breast cancer may be influenced by patient age, including postoperative irradiation after partial mastectomy, axillary lymphadenectomy, primary medical treatment of early breast cancer, and adjuvant chemotherapy.


The authors review the literature regarding age-specific issues in the management of breast cancer, and they report their own experience in treating older women with breast cancer.


In terms of survival and disease-free survival, tamoxifen alone in primary breast cancer is inferior to surgical treatment followed by adjuvant tamoxifen. Tamoxifen alone should be reserved for patients with absolute contraindications to mastectomy. Adjuvant chemotherapy is beneficial to women with hormone receptor-poor tumors. In those with hormone receptor-rich tumors, adjuvant chemotherapy is beneficial for HER2-positive tumors, and the regimen should contain an anthracycline.


Although the risk of local recurrence after partial mastectomy declines with increasing age, the decision to forego radiation therapy is individualized based on risk of recurrence and on patient desires and resources. The advent of lymph node mapping obviates the need for lymphadenectomy in most patients. The benefits and risks of adjuvant chemotherapy should be individually assessed according to tumor stage, life expectancy, comorbidity, and expected tolerance of treatment.

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