Community Blog

More Data Needed to Help Seniors with Breast Cancer

By Debbie Humphrey

I was reading an article recently in which I learned there are too few volunteers for clinical trials and studies to better help seniors with breast cancer. As I read further, I discovered the astounding fact that some studies have age cut-offs and some are limited to “healthier adults” with the disease. Wait. What?

This struck me as odd, because the average age when breast cancer is diagnosed is 62, and 60% of all cases occur in women over age 65.

Furthermore, “The chance a woman will get breast cancer increases from 1-in-233 for women in their thirties, to a 1-in-8 chance for a woman in her eighties,” according to one article published by aPlaceforMom, for whom Home Helpers® is a provider.

Dr. Julie Gralow, associate professor of medical oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and medical oncologist at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is disturbed about these stats because there is a serious lack of participation by seniors in clinical trials and studies.

Dr. Gralow said, “There are several situations unique to older patients. We find it difficult to determine the toxicity levels of chemotherapy, because we simply don’t have enough information. This is significant because older women tend to have more tumors and thus, be more sensitive to estrogen receptor positivity, or they might avoid chemotherapy altogether.”

This piqued my curiosity, so I decided to look further, only to find corroborating observations.

According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, “Older adults are often excluded from clinical trials, which form the basis of standards of care. This results in a lack of clear evidence-based guidelines on how to treat older patients.”

If seniors are unable to participate in these trials because of their age and levels of health, it made sense that there are no clear “standards of care” to meet the needs of aging adults. Therein lies a serious dilemma.

Dr. Hyman Muss, BCRF investigator and director of geriatric oncology at the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at University of North Carolina said, “Understanding how toxicities of cancer therapies will affect older patients remains an unanswered question, largely due to the underrepresentation of these patients in clinical trials.

“New drugs are not tested in adequate numbers of older patients,” he added. “We don’t know if they will have the same benefit or side effect profile as they do for a younger, healthier population.”

Thanks to continued research and volunteers who participate in these clinical trials and studies, treatment options continue to expand with fewer cases requiring radical mastectomies, as was once common decades ago.

Dr Gralow said, “The lack of volunteers in study groups remains a significant obstacle in the development of therapy success rates for older patients. I would encourage older women to enroll in these trials, as they often receive new therapies and important information otherwise unavailable.”

If you know a senior with breast cancer who would like to participate in clinical trials at Moffitt Cancer Center or Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Home Helpers® is available to provide safe, reliable transportation assistance to/from the appointments, complete with a door-to-door escort.

I offer a FREE in-home consultation to discuss your scope of needs and specific ways our caregivers can be of assistance. I also have numerous resources that can help when breast cancer invades your family. It’s not only a disease that affects the person with the diagnosis, but it deeply affects everyone who loves them.

Home Helpers® is honored to have received the Provider of Choice 2017 & 2018 awards from Home Care Pulse, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠  727.942.2539

Source:  aPlaceforMom

 Breast Cancer Research Foundation