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Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2005 Jun;17(4):244-8.

Chemotherapy for older women with early breast cancer.

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  • 1South West Wales Cancer Institute, Swansea University Medical School, Singleton Hospital, Sketty, Swansea SA2 8QA, UK.


The incidence of breast cancer increases with age, reaching over 300 per 100,000 in women aged 70-75 years in the U.K., increasing to almost 400 per 100,000 in women aged over 85 years. As a healthy 70-year old woman can now expect to live for an average of 15 years, control of breast cancer is likely to significantly affect survival. Variations exist in surgical care, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, depending on age; however, virtually all elderly women with hormone-responsive disease are given adjuvant endocrine therapy, usually tamoxifen. For older women who do not have hormone-responsive cancer, and who have high-risk disease characteristics, questions remain over their best management. Overview data of adjuvant chemotherapy in clinical trials show a significant benefit of chemotherapy for women up to the age of 69 years but, for older women, there are too few data to draw any firm conclusions. When considering treatment options for older women, assessment is critical; functional status and comorbidity are some of the factors linked to shorter survival.

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