Nearly fifty percent of breast cancer cases in the U.S. occur in women who are 65 years of age or older. Senior women are screened much in the same way as younger women; however, treatment is dependent on the overall nature of the senior’s health as well as if other serious health conditions are present. The goal of treatment, of course, is to remove the cancer and enhance each woman’s quality of life.
Early detection of breast cancer in a woman of any age is essential. The earlier the cancer is detected, the higher the treatment success rate. With earlier detection, many types of breast cancer can be treated with less aggressive methods and techniques. This is especially important for seniors who may have serious health conditions; some seniors, for example, might not be able to withstand a surgery or aggressive types of chemotherapy. In many cases, early detection can result in a lumpectomy rather than the removal of the entire breast.
When diagnosed with breast cancer later in life, treatment depends on the nature of the cancer overall, but is also influenced by the person’s age if there significant health problems that could be exacerbated by the chosen cancer treatment. For example, it’s very difficult for seniors who have health conditions to tolerate chemotherapy. For seniors with frail health, surgery can be a high-risk option.
Fortunately, many types of breast cancer that affect seniors respond well to less aggressive methods of treatment. Some women can even entirely avoid chemotherapy. By treating some cancers with endocrine medications that target cancer cells, women suffer fewer side effects because their healthy cells are not compromised by the treatment the way that they are with chemotherapy. Like all cancer patients, seniors will require comprehensive medical care; for instance, their dietary needs may change throughout the process and they will need help managing other aspects of their health.
While just being a woman is a risk, there are some other risk factors associated with breast cancer including genetics, a previous occurrence of breast cancer, being overweight, using hormone replacement therapy, smoking, an inactivity can increase the risks for developing this disease. While there is little one can do about genetic risk factors, for instance, women can refrain from smoking and try to be active in order to reduce their risks. Controlling weight gain is another important way to ward of the development of breast cancer.
Of course, whether you have risk factors or not, you should plan to get regular mammograms to detect cancer early if it does occur. Performing self-checks is also important for catching breast cancer as early as possible. By limiting chemical and radiation exposure, you may also be able to reduce breast cancer risks.
Both senior and young women should do their utmost to reduce their risk factors for developing breast cancer. By keeping up with checkups, women can also help doctors spot cancer early when it is most likely to be successfully treated.