15 October 2012
By 2040 there will be more than one million women in the UK living with breast cancer aged 65 and over. This is almost quadruple the 340,000 older women currently living with the disease, according to research funded by Macmillan Cancer Support (340,000 in 2010 to 1,220,000 in 2040).
The research by King’s College London, recently published in the British Journal of Cancer reveals that by 2040, nearly three-quarters of all breast cancer survivors will be 65 and over (an increase from 59% today to 73% in 2040).
Older women are currently much more likely to be diagnosed later with advanced breast cancer. They are also less likely to undergo breast conserving surgery as compared to their younger counterparts, and only a small percentage undergo breast reconstructive surgery.
Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive, Macmillan Cancer Support, says:
“The NHS needs to take heed of these figures. It is already struggling to provide adequate care for older breast cancer patients. We need to change the way we care for older breast cancer patients now - so that we are prepared for such a dramatic increase in numbers.
“Older people must be provided with the right treatment at the right time at the correct level of intensity.
“We can never assume that because a woman is older that she will not cope with surgery or that she is less interested in body image than a younger woman. It is our duty to ensure that every cancer patient has access to the best possible care.
“We can no longer tolerate the present situation where too many cancer doctors are making assumptions based on age which often result in older women receiving inadequate care for their breast cancer.”
The research also showed that the projected increase in breast cancer among the over-65s is almost double the increase for younger age groups.
Macmillan is calling for all cancer services to ensure that treatment decisions are based on objective assessment of patients as opposed to age-based assumptions.
Macmillan, in partnership with Age UK and the Department of Health, has set up five pilots to test new models of older people’s care. They will report in December 2012.
To help more older people living with cancer, Macmillan relies on public donations. For cancer support, or to find out ways you can give, call Macmillan’s Support Line free on 0808 808 00 00 or visit www.macmillan.org.uk.
For further information, please contact:
Sarah Ross, PR Manager
0207 840 4722 (out of hours 07801 307068)
Notes to Editors:
1. Maddams J, Utley M, Møller H. Projections of cancer prevalence in the United Kingdom, 2010-2040. Br J Cancer 2012; 107: 1195-1202.
2. G Lyratzopoulos, G A Abel, J M Barbiere et al. Variation in advanced stage at diagnosis of lung and female breast cancer in an English region 2006–2009. Br J Cancer 2012; 106: 1068–1075.
3. National Cancer Intelligence Network (NCIN) The Second All Breast Cancer Report, 2011 http://www.ncin.org.uk/view.aspx?rid=612 (accessed October 2012)
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