The Arbor Company Senior Living Blog

Breast Cancer in the Elderly: What You Need to Know

Nov 13, 2019 12:29:42 PM / Chris Harper Chris Harper

Senior adults are often at a higher risk for certain medical diseases or conditions as they age. Unfortunately, older adults living with complex medical conditions can also be diagnosed with more than one serious and complicating disease as well. Breast cancer is an example of a disease that can be discovered at any age, but the risk does increase as women age past 60.

Breast Cancer and Older Adults

The National Cancer Institute reports that women over the age of 60 have a 1 in 28 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer within a 10-year period. At 70, the number jumps to 1 in 25. By contrast, a woman at the age of 30 has only a 1 in 208 chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer in the next 10 years.

Although early detection is key for any new cancer diagnosis, the treatment plans and outcomes differ from individual to individual. Recent research published has discovered that women over the age of 65 who are diagnosed with early stage, hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer have worse outcomes than their younger counterparts who receive similar treatment protocol. There are various theories as to why this increased mortality rate happens for women over 65, but research is just beginning to discover how treatment protocols tend to be less aggressive in older women.

Detection and Diagnosis

Older women should still be focused on the early detection of breast cancer, as it provides the best results for developing and executing an effective treatment plan. One way to catch breast cancer early is to perform monthly breast self-examinations. However, being familiar with other signs of a potential problem is also helpful. Older women will show signs and symptoms that are similar to those of their younger counterparts, such as a lump on the breast, skin dimpling, a rash or redness on the skin around the breast, or swelling in the areas around the breast, including the underarm area.

Mammograms are also crucial for older women and should be a part of your regular wellness routine. It is recommended that women over 55 can receive a mammogram every two years if there are no complicating factors to be concerned about. Be sure to speak with your physician about your mammogram schedule as you age, and work with your healthcare provider to ensure that you are receiving the scans your doctor recommends.

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Treatment and Complicating Factors

If you or your aging loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, it can feel scary and overwhelming. Fortunately, oncologists will work with the treatment team to develop a plan that will be as effective as possible. Treatments can include procedures like a lumpectomy or mastectomy, as well as radiation or chemotherapy. These options are hard for younger women who are living with breast cancer, and can be even more difficult for adults over the age of 65.

Recovery time from surgical interventions can be longer for older adults, and seniors may need additional therapy services to rebuild endurance and strength after the procedure. Further, chemotherapy and radiation may need to be spaced out with a longer recovery time in between sessions for older adults.

According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, physicians are actively looking for effective ways to treat senior patients with the disease. Older patients are at higher risk for side effects as well as death due to side effect complications. However, oncologists are beginning to use blood tests and other diagnostic measures to find a treatment plan that will be effective while minimizing side effects for seniors.

Feeling Your Best

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the key is to find the support needed to make treatment and recovery as smooth as possible. Consider senior living as a short- or long-term option during this trying time. Senior living communities can offer round-the-clock access to compassionate caregivers who can step in to assist with daily tasks or emergency situations. This access will give you and your loved one peace of mind as well as a better chance to stay healthy.

Senior living communities also offer three nutritious chef-prepared meals each day, eliminating the task of daily cooking or food preparation. Instead, your senior loved one can spend their time recovering and enjoying nutritious food..

Finally, senior living communities provide residents with a community that is focused on health and wellness. Most offer transportation to and from appointments, rehabilitative therapy sessions, and more. Licensed nurses provide medication management and are there to answer questions or provide guidance. 

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Topics: Senior Aging & Health, Senior Health

Chris Harper

Chris Harper

As the vice president of communications for The Arbor Company, Chris is responsible for digital marketing, public relations, technology and design.

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