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Ann Surg Oncol. 2011 Apr;18(4):923-31. doi: 10.1245/s10434-010-1389-1. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Perioperative complications of breast cancer surgery in elderly women (≥80 years).

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rostock, Rostock, Germany.



There has been much controversy regarding the optimal management of breast cancer in very elderly women. Some clinicians are reluctant to offer surgical treatment for women older than aged 80 years because of the assumed higher operative risk associated with advanced age. This study was designed to investigate the perioperative complications of breast cancer surgery in women of this age group.


Data were reviewed of all women ≥80 years of age who underwent breast cancer surgery at a university clinic during the period 1990-2005. Symptoms, comorbidities, preoperative risk assessment, type of operation, postoperative histological diagnosis, hospital stay, morbidity, and mortality were documented and analyzed.


During this 16-year period, 140 operations for breast cancer were performed in 129 women. The majority of the patients (37.9%) underwent a modified radical mastectomy, 32.1% underwent a simple mastectomy, 24.3% underwent breast-conserving therapy, and 5.7% underwent an axillary lymph node dissection. Complications occurred in 37.1% of the cohort: 31.4% were minor complications and only 5.7% were major. Intraoperative morbidity was 18.6% and postoperative morbidity was 20%. Late complications occurred in 5% of patients. The most common complications were associated with the wound region (50%). The perioperative mortality in this group of elderly women was zero.


Breast cancer surgery has acceptable perioperative morbidity and mortality in women aged ≥80 years. Surgery is the cornerstone of breast cancer treatment and should be offered as first-line treatment for all patients regardless of their age.

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