The primary objective of this population-based study is to describe the patterns of care of elderly patients with breast cancer (BC), and evaluate potential causative factors for the decrease in BC-specific survival (BCSS) in the elderly.
Patients and Methods
We included all or representative samples of patients with newly diagnosed BC from seven Swiss cancer registries between 2003 and 2005 (n = 4820). Surgical and non-surgical BC treatment was analyzed over 5 age groups (< 65, 65 to < 70, 70 to < 75, 75 to < 80 and ≥ 80 years), and the predictive impact of patient age on specific treatments was calculated using multivariate logistic regression analysis.
The proportion of locally advanced, metastatic and incompletely staged BC increased with age. The odds ratio for performing breast-conserving surgery (BCS) in stages I–II BC (0.37), sentinel lymph node dissection (SLND) in patients with no palpable adenopathy (0.58), post-BCS radiotherapy (0.04) and adjuvant endocrine treatment (0.23) were all in disfavor of patients ≥ 80 years of age compared to their younger peers. Only 36% of patients ≥ 80 years of age with no palpable adenopathy underwent SLND. In the adjusted model, higher age was a significant risk factor for omitting post-BCS radiotherapy, SLND and adjuvant endocrine treatment.
This study found an increase in incomplete diagnostic assessment, and a substantial underuse of BCS, post-BCS radiotherapy, SLND and adjuvant endocrine treatment in elderly patients with BC. There is a need for improved management of early BC in the elderly even in a system with universal access to health care services.