611 W. Union Street
Benson, AZ 85602
(520) 586-0800

member support line
M-F 5pm-8pm
24/7 weekends/holidays

AzCH Nurse Assist Line


611 W. Union Street
Benson, AZ 85602
(520) 586-0800

AzCH Nurse Assist Line


powered by centersite dot net
Women's Health
Basic InformationLatest News
Mom's Weight-Loss Surgery Lowers Many Pregnancy Complications, Raises OthersPregnant Women Need to Take Care in Sweltering Summer HeatAre Antibiotics Really the Answer for UTIs in Women?Stronger Hearts, Better Outcomes in Pregnancy: StudyCould Menopausal Hormone Therapy Reduce Women's Odds for Dementia?Screening Often Misses Endometrial Cancer in Black WomenAHA News: Pregnant Mom's Diet May Influence Baby's Cardiovascular HealthPandemic Delays in Screening Mean More Breast Cancer Deaths Ahead: StudyUrinary Incontinence Can Affect a Woman's Mental HealthCOVID Vaccine Doesn't Infiltrate Breast MilkGap in Breast Cancer Survival for Black, White Patients Shrinks, But Not by EnoughCost a Barrier to Cervical Cancer Screening for Many U.S. WomenAlcohol Still a Threat in Too Many American Pregnancies: StudyWomen's Cancer Screenings Plummeted During PandemicPandemic Day Care Closures Forced 600,000 U.S. Working Moms to Leave JobsNo Sign Prior COVID Infection Affects a Woman's Fertility: StudyFertility Drugs Won't Raise Breast Cancer RiskMigraines Tied to Higher Odds for Complications in PregnancyWomen, Take These Key Steps to Good Urological HealthAre Women Absorbing Toxins From Their Makeup?Race Doesn't Affect Risk for Genes That Raise Breast Cancer RiskHealthy Levels of Vitamin D May Boost Breast Cancer OutcomesHeavy Drinking Could Lower a Woman's Odds of ConceptionAHA News: Asian and Pacific Islander Women May Be at Greatest Risk for Preeclampsia ComplicationsFibroid Pain, Bleeding Is Driving Thousands of Women to the ERA Woman's Diet Might Help Her Avoid Breast CancerBreast Cancer's Spread Is More Likely in Black Women, Study FindsDrug Lynparza Could Help Fight Some Early-Stage Breast CancersAHA News: Menopause Before 40 Tied to Higher Stroke RiskHealthy Eating Lowers Pregnancy Complication RiskAortic Tears Are Even More Deadly for Women, Study FindsFDA Warns of Bogus Fertility Claims for Some SupplementsAHA News: Surprisingly Few Women May Have Good Heart Health Before PregnancyOsteoporosis Might Also Raise a Woman's Odds for Hearing LossModerate Use of Hair Relaxers Won't Raise Black Women's Cancer Risk: StudyMammography Rates Plummeted During Pandemic'Yo-Yo' Dieting May Mean Sleepless Nights for WomenGluten Doesn't Trigger 'Brain Fog' for Women Without Celiac Disease: StudyHPV Vaccination Is Lowering U.S. Cervical Cancer RatesSmoggy Air Might Raise Black Women's Odds for FibroidsAHA News: Preterm Deliveries May Pose Long-Term Stroke Risk for MothersWomen Get Help Later Than Men When Heart Attack StrikesLots of Sugary Drinks Doubles Younger Women's Colon Cancer Risk: StudyHeart Risk Factors Show Up Earlier in U.S. Black WomenBetter Access to Birth Control Boosts School Graduation RatesA Vitamin Could Be Key to Women's Pain After Knee ReplacementFreezing Tumors Could Be New Treatment for Low-Risk Breast CancersGiving Birth During the Pandemic? Facts You Need to KnowDo Your Genes Set You Up for Hot Flashes?Common Complication of Pregnancy Tied to Higher Stroke Risk Later
Questions and AnswersLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Medical Disorders
Wellness and Personal Development
Mental Disorders

Breast Cancer Over 70: How Much Treatment Is Enough?

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Apr 20th 2021

new article illustration

TUESDAY, April 20, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Many women older than 70 can safely receive fewer treatments for early-stage breast cancer, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that adding lymph node removal or radiation to women's treatment did not seem to cut their risk of a breast cancer recurrence, which was low overall.

The findings, experts said, support existing recommendations to "de-escalate" those procedures for many older women.

The point is to spare them of side effects from treatments that are unlikely to bring benefits, said Adrian Lee, one of the researchers on the study.

In practice, though, many women continue to undergo the procedures, said Lee, an investigator with the Women's Cancer Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

At issue are women aged 70 and up who have early-stage breast tumors that are estrogen-receptor positive — meaning the hormone helps fuel their growth. Standard treatments include surgery to remove the tumor, followed by hormone therapy to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.

"Our surgeries and hormone therapies today are very good," Lee said.

And that, he added, is likely one reason why those older women do not get added benefit from lymph node removal or radiation.

Beyond that, breast cancer after age 70 is often slow-growing, said Dr. Carla Suzanne Fisher, director of breast surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine, in Indianapolis.

Since older women's cancer is typically — though not always — less aggressive, additional therapies may be unnecessary, Fisher said.

Then there's the fact that women in their 70s and 80s commonly have other serious health conditions, like heart disease.

"These women generally aren't dying of breast cancer," Lee said. "They're dying of other causes."

The study was published online April 15 in JAMA Network Open. It included more than 3,300 women aged 70 and older diagnosed with breast cancer between 2010 and 2018. All had early-stage tumors positive for estrogen receptors. None had "clinical" signs that the cancer had spread to lymph nodes in the armpit, such as swelling.

Even with no such signs, it is possible that cancer cells have migrated to those lymph nodes. So doctors can check by doing a sentinel node biopsy, which involves removing the lymph node (or set of nodes) to which cancer cells are most likely to have spread.

But guidelines issued in 2016 recommend against routinely doing sentinel node biopsy in low-risk older women like those in the study. That's because of a lack of evidence it's helpful, and because the procedure can have side effects, like swelling, numbness and shoulder pain.

Yet, Lee's team found, 65% of their study patients underwent sentinel node biopsies, with no decline after the 2016 guideline.

Similarly, 54% of women underwent radiation, despite evidence from clinical trials that it can be safely skipped.

There was no evidence those procedures benefited women, the study authors noted.

Only a small percentage had a cancer recurrence in the five years after treatment. That happened in 3.5% of women who had a node biopsy, for example, versus 4.5% of those with no biopsy.

When Lee's team factored in other variables — like women's overall health — there was no evidence that node biopsies or radiation helped women avoid recurrences or live longer free of breast cancer.

Fisher, who is also with the American Society of Breast Surgeons, said she thinks the findings will help convince more doctors the procedures can be safely skipped.

"Omitting something can be difficult, for both doctors and patients," Fisher said. "It can be a difficult conversation when you're telling a patient, 'We used to do this, but we don't think it's necessary anymore.'"

Lee agreed that cutting back on common medical therapies is generally more challenging than adding new ones.

He and Fisher encouraged patients to ask questions about any recommended treatments, including whether they are necessary at all, and what the benefits and risks could be.

"We want to tailor treatment to individual patients," Fisher said. "So we need to keep going back to that two-way conversation."

More information

The American Cancer Society suggests questions to ask your doctor about breast cancer treatment.

SOURCES: Adrian Lee, PhD, investigator, Women's Cancer Research Center, Hillman Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and director, UPMC/Pitt Institute for Precision Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pa.; Carla Suzanne Fisher, MD, MBA, associate professor, surgery, and director, breast surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, and incoming chair, communications committee, American Society of Breast Surgeons, Columbia, Md.; JAMA Network Open, April 15, 2021, online