Owners' Blog

Breast Cancer in Seniors

By Greg and Hilary Eldridge

Senior Care in John Creek GA

The healthiest person can be diagnosed with this disease as early as their 20’s, but it is mostly found in women over the age of 65. According to Medscape, 40 percent of breast cancer diagnoses Senior-Care-John-Creek-GAare in women of this age and that percentage is expected to grow by 2030 since the elder population is also expected to expand. The good news is that, if caught early enough, 98.5 percent of women with breast cancer can be treated, ridding their bodies of the cancerous cells. If the elder woman you are providing elderly care for feels a lump in her breast, notices bloody discharge from the nipple, or a change in the size of the breast, there is a strong possibility they may have developed breast cancer.

The Connection between Age and Breast Cancer
Once people reach their golden years, the chances of getting a chronic illness or disease increases. Elderly people are at a much higher risk of cancer than that of young adults, since 60 percent of new diagnoses were of the 65 and older age group, while also taking up 70 percent of cancer related deaths. The US National Library of Medicine reported that because of the link between age and cancer, cancer may soon take the place of heart disease as the leading cause of death.

Mammograms: Should the Elderly Get One?
The answer to this question depends on the health of the older adult. Generally, if the woman is 75 or older and in excellent health, they may benefit from having a mammogram. On the other hand, if a woman of the same age is receiving in-home care and has health issues, the doctor may refuse to give this person a mammogram. The reason for this is because doctors are concerned with over-diagnosing a patient, which means finding tumors that are not clinically important during the patient’s lifetime. This is a serious problem among the older generation of women compared to the younger generation for a number of reasons, including:

  • Decreased life expectancy: For women with a life expectancy between 5 and 10 years, they are unlikely to increase their life expectancy by getting a mammogram.
  • Changes in breast cancer biology: The growth of tumors becomes less aggressive in old age because of more favorable biological characteristics, such as an increased percentage of estrogen and progesterone, as well as less positive lymph nodes.
  • Other health risks: Elders with breast cancer and other medical conditions were more likely to die of their other conditions instead of breast cancer. Because of this, doctors may look at a mammogram as an “over-treatment,” meaning they are receiving a treatment for breast cancers that are not clinically important.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS): A noninvasive form of breast cancer, 28 to 39 percent of DCIS cases end up being invasive, so identifying DCIS in women receiving senior care may be perceived as over-diagnoses.
  • Uncertain success of treatments: Very few women from the elder age group have participated in breast cancer treatment trials, so it is uncertain what the effects of various treatments will have on them.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month takes place in October, which is the perfect time to research breast cancer in the elderly if you fear your loved one may have it.

If you or an aging loved one are looking for senior care in Johns Creek, GA, contact the caring staff at Home Helpers of Alpharetta. Call today (678) 430-8511.

Medscape. “Breast Cancer in the Elderly.”

Schonberg, Mara, MD, MPH. “Breast Cancer Screening: At What Age to Stop?”