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Breast Cancer

Many Elderly BC Patients Are Taking Hormone Therapy

Women over 65 with non-metastatic breast cancer are likely to follow recommendations for preventive hormone treatment. But non-white women were much less likely to have that therapy.

The women who had the therapy suffered from estrogen-positive breast cancer and were given either an aromatase inhibitor or tamoxifen. Those hormones prevent tumors from using estrogen to fuel growth.

The study was reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

“Women 65 years of age and older comprise about half of patients with breast cancer, but some studies have suggested this group initiates therapy less often and discontinues treatment more frequently than younger or middle aged women,” said the study’s lead author, Vanessa B. Sheppard, PhD, associate professor of oncology and assistant director of health disparities research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We found a more positive picture of use — although more than half of patients discontinued use before the five years of recommended treatment, non-initiation of starting treatment was only 14 percent,” she says. “This is reassuring, as it’s important for women to give themselves a chance for the best outcome possible, regardless of their age.”

The researchers conducted the study over a period of seven years at 78 facilities across the U.S. The 1,062 participants were aged 65 to 91; they had locally invasive cancer.

However, Sheppard said, women who were judged “frail” or “prefrail” may be justified in not starting treatment. “It may be that these women, with the concurrence of their physicians, felt they would not live long enough to benefit from the therapy given competing health conditions, and they also may have wanted to avoid any toxicities from treatment.”

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