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Oncologist. 2010;15 Suppl 5:57-65. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2010-S5-57.

Coming of age: breast cancer in seniors.

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University of North Carolina Lineberger Cancer Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA.


In the U.S., cancer is a disease of aging. The average 65-year-old patient has an anticipated life expectancy of 20 years, and clinicians should take this into account when making breast cancer management decisions. However, older breast cancer patients can present with wide variations in health status, and treatment in older patients should therefore include a careful evaluation of comorbidities, physical function, polypharmacy, and other issues that could potentially impact a patient's ability to undergo chemotherapy without excessive risk. Evaluation tools are under development, including potential molecular markers, to identify which older patients are the best candidates for chemotherapy, as well as those more susceptible to actually developing cancer. Standard chemotherapy regimens are just as effective in older patients as they are in the younger population, and can substantially prolong life expectancy when used in the right patients. This article discusses breast cancer in seniors, including the epidemiology of breast cancer in these patients, the potential impact of comorbidities, and effective adjuvant therapy in selected older patients.

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