Critical review of the management of early-stage breast cancer in elderly women
The treatment of elderly women (≥70 years) with early-stage breast cancer is an emerging clinical problem in the setting of an ageing population. There is a lack of clinical trial evidence to formulate clinical guidelines for management because of the small number of elderly women included in previous clinical trials of adjuvant therapy. This often results in elderly patients being denied standard management based on age alone. The often-complex interaction between age, comorbid conditions and function complicate the planning and outcomes of surgery and can have an effect on the delivery of postoperative adjuvant therapy. A comprehensive assessment of the elderly patient is essential to determine overall prognosis and morbidity risk from treatments; however, a simple comorbidity scale for use in routine clinical practice remains elusive. Thus, treatment decisions should be tailored to the individual to ensure that therapies are not unduly withheld and are appropriate for the patient’s overall condition. The assessment of the elderly patient with breast cancer requires the involvement of a multidisciplinary team. The evidence for efficacy, safety and potential risks of surgery and adjuvant therapies (including radiotherapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy) in the elderly population is discussed in this review and the role of comprehensive geriatric assessment is outlined.