Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Older women facing bias in treatment of breast cancer

Older women with breast cancer face discrimination in accessing some treatments and surgery, a report said yesterday.

The audit of UK services, from the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, also found regional variations in the care offered to patients. The number of women in Northern Ireland receiving breast conserving surgery was lower than the UK average.

Older women across the UK are less likely to receive “standard” treatments such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery than younger women with a similar diagnosis, it found. Just 16% of patients over 65 received chemotherapy, compared with 77% of patients under 50.

A total of 48% of women aged 80 and over did not receive any surgery, compared with 3.5% of women under 50.

Older women having surgery were more likely to have a mastectomy than surgery to conserve as much breast tissue as possible.

Only 42% of women aged 65 and over received breast conserving surgery, compared with 51% of women under 65. Meanwhile, only 31% of patients over 80 received radiotherapy, compared with 78% under 50.

Breakthrough said that although some of the findings could be down to a woman not wanting treatments or surgery, the figures were too high to be explained through patient choice alone.

The data, published in the British Journal of Cancer, was analysed by researchers at the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit. The figures showed variation across the country in who got access to what treatments.

Breakthrough’s Maggie Alexandersaid: “All women should be offered appropriate treatment options no matter what their age and that's why we are investigating this issue.”

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