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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2012 Apr;132(2):675-82. doi: 10.1007/s10549-011-1892-5. Epub 2011 Nov 27.

Surgical treatment of early stage breast cancer in elderly: an international comparison.

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Department of Surgery, Leiden University Medical Center, PO Box 9600, 2300, RC, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Over 40% of breast cancer patients are diagnosed above the age of 65. Treatment of these elderly patients will probably vary over countries. The aim of this study was to make an international comparison (several European countries and the US) of surgical and radiation treatment for elderly women with early stage breast cancer. Survival comparisons were also made. Data were obtained from national or regional population-based registries in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, and Portugal. For the US patients were selected from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database. Early stage breast cancer patients aged ≥ 65 diagnosed between 1995 and 2005 were included. An international comparison was made for breast and axillary surgery, radiotherapy after breast conserving surgery (BCS), and relative or cause-specific survival. Overall, 204.885 patients were included. The proportion of patients not receiving any surgery increased with age in many countries; however, differences between countries were large. In most countries more than half of all elderly patients received breast conserving surgery (BCS), with the highest percentage in Switzerland. The proportion of elderly patients that received radiotherapy after BCS decreased with age in all countries. Moreover, in all countries the proportion of patients who do not receive axillary surgery increased with age. No large differences in survival between countries were recorded. International comparisons of surgical treatment for elderly women with early stage breast cancer are scarce. This study showed large international differences in treatment of elderly early stage breast cancer patients, with the most striking result the large proportion of elderly who did not undergo surgery at all. Despite large treatment differences, survival does not seem to be affected in a major way.

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