Recent research shows that many women over the age of 70 can easily undergo fewer therapies for early-stage breast cancer. Scientists have concluded that only providing radiation or amputating the lymph nodes will not reduce the chance of cancer relapse. The expert’s recommendations support the cutback of those procedures for women of older age; especially for the ones, who are 70 and more in age.
Early Stage Breast Cancer Treatment For Women In ’70s And Above.
According to Adrian Lee, one of the researchers in this study, the objective of this recommendation is to minimize the side effects of radiation and surgery that are more harmful than being beneficial.
However, more patients continue to perform the treatments, according to Lee, an investigator with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Women’s Cancer Research Center.
Women aged 70 and above who are at an early stage of breast tumor are at risk because these tumors are estrogen receptor-positive. This means that the hormones contribute to escalating the growth of the tumor.
Lee also mentioned that the surgeries and hormone therapies have been successful so far and that could be a reason that the lymph node amputation and radiation do not contribute to any added health benefits.
Dr. Carla Suzanne Fisher, director of breast surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, stated that the breast cancer growth rate is slow after the age of 70.
Fisher commented that additional treatments might not be required for older women with breast cancer as in most cases; old age breast cancer is less dangerous in terms of growing and spreading.
But a very important factor that needs to be considered is that women in the ’70s and ’80s have other health issues like cardiac problems and diabetes. Therefore as Lee said that the cause of their death is mostly due to those other health issues and not breast cancer.
The thesis was released online on JAMA Network on April 15th. It included more than 3,300 women of age 70 and more who had been diagnosed with breast cancer since 2010 till 2018. Many of them had early-stage tumors that were positive for estrogen receptors. None of them showed “clinical” symptoms of cancer spreading to lymph nodes in their armpits, such as swelling. Also even if no other symptoms are present, cancer cells could have still spread to certain lymph nodes. Doctors can verify this by doing a sentinel node biopsy, which entails eliminating the lymph node (or group of nodes) to which cancer cells are most likely to have spread.
However, recommendations released in 2016 advise against regularly performing sentinel node biopsy in low-risk older women, such as those in the report. This is due to a lack of evidence that it is beneficial, as well as the possibility of side effects such as swelling, numbness, and shoulder pain, etc. are also present.
Despite this, Lee’s team discovered that 65 percent of their research patients had sentinel node biopsies, with no decrease since the 2016 guidance.
Similarly, amid clinical trial evidence that it can be safely avoided, 54 percent of women underwent radiation.
According to the study’s authors, there was no proof that such procedures helped women.
In the five years after surgery, only a small number of patients have a cancer recurrence. This occurred in 3.5 percent of women who had a node biopsy, compared to 4.5 percent of those who did not have a biopsy.
When Lee’s team took into account other factors, such as women’s physical wellbeing, they found no evidence that node biopsies or radiation helped women prevent recurrences or live longer free of breast cancer.
Fisher, who is also a member of the American Society of Breast Surgeons, believes the results will persuade more physicians and the operations can be easily avoided.
Both Lee and Fisher agreed that it is more difficult to cut down any treatment or drugs than to add new ones.
They encouraged patients to question them about any recommendations and treatments if they are worth taking or not.