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A Journal on Surgery

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Minerva Chirurgica 2010 October;65(5):555-67

language: English

Is surgery always indicated in older women with breast cancer?

Tang S. W., Hurria A., Morgan D. A. L., Cheung K. L.

1 Division of Breast Surgery, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK;
2 Cancer and Ageing Research Program, City of Hope, Durate, CA, USA;
3 Department of Oncology, Nottingham University Hospitals, Nottingham UK


Although surgery has long been considered the main form of curative treatment for breast cancer, its use in older women may not always be indicated. Whilst surgery has been shown to provide superior local control for breast cancer, there is conflicting evidence on whether surgery offers a significant improvement on overall survival in these patients. The more indolent tumour biology commonly seen in older women with breast cancer, coupled with competing causes of death may alter the goals of treatment. The differing needs of older patients should be thoroughly assessed to consider their comorbidities, functional status and quality of life. A comprehensive geriatric assessment and quality of life assessment could identify pretreatment risk factors and guide clinical decision making, improving morbidity and prognosis. Alternatives to surgery include primary endocrine therapy and primary radiotherapy. Further research is required to identify different patient or tumour factors which can be used to individualize treatment for breast cancer in older women and to develop holistic assessment tools which take into account their individual quality of life, geriatric syndromes and functional needs. A dedicated multidisciplinary-led clinic may provide a suitable platform for the assessment, review and management of this distinctive set of patients.

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