Treating Breast Cancer In People Age 70 And Up
Older age increases the risk of several types of breast cancer. But advancements in diagnosis and highly individualized treatment plans are increasing the odds of recovery for older patients and making it possible for many to live longer, healthier lives.
Breast surgeon Hanh-Tam Tran, M.D., explains what people age 70 and older should know about being diagnosed with breast cancer and why theres reason for hope.
What Are Early Signs Of Breast Cancer
The healthcare professionals and senior care experts at Anthology of Anderson Township recommend receiving regularly scheduled mammograms to help with early detection. At Anthology of Midlothian, residents have access to the outstanding cancer care available at Johnston-Willis Hospital right down the road!
Knowing how your breasts look and feel normally is an important part of maintaining breast health. If you know what your breasts should look and feel like, you will be able to identify any changes. The most common symptom of breast cancer is a lump in the breast. While most breast lumps are not cancer, a painless, hard mass with irregular edges should be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible. Other possible symptoms of breast cancer include:Swelling of all or part of a breast, even if no lump is detectedSkin dimplingNipple or breast skin that is red, dry, thickened or flakingNipple dischargeSwollen lymph nodes under the arm or near the collarbone this can be a sign of breast cancer spread even before the original tumor in the breast is large enough to be felt
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What Causes Breast Pain In The Elderly
A womans menstrual cycle causes hormone fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. These two hormones can cause a womans breasts to feel swollen, lumpy, and sometimes painful. Women sometimes report that this pain gets worse as they get older due to increased sensitivity to hormones as a woman ages.
What Are The Early Warning Signs Of Breast Cancer
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month ! During this month, the National Breast Cancer Foundation and other organizations promote education and encourage open conversations about breast health at all ages. Breast cancer is a relatively common type of cancer nearly one in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, and there are currently four million women in the U.S. living with a breast cancer diagnosis. Men are also affected by breast cancer with more than 2,700 men diagnosed each year.
To help you take charge of your own health, and to support friends as they manage their own health journey, it is important to understand the causes of breast cancer, how to measure your personal risk and how to identify the early signs of breast cancer.
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Breast Cancer In The Elderly Woman
The breast is a hormone-dependent organ. Throughout the womanâs lifetime, it undergoes regular hormonal attacks: during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, lactation. Additional predisposing factors for breast cancer include contraceptive use, abortion, miscarriages, sudden weight changes, stress, and depression. Radical hormonal changes in the body accompany the onset of menopause:
- Ovarian function fades
- Adipose tissue replaces the glandular tissue of the breast
All these changes are accompanied by transmission in the structure and volume of the breast. But can a 70-year-old woman get breast cancer, or is the period after menopause a safe haven?
The truth is, the older the woman, the higher the risk of breast cancer. Women over 60 years of age receive breast cancer diagnosis 400 times more often than younger patients. The main cause of breast cancer is the oversaturation of the body with estrogens â female hormones, which occurs during menopause. That is why post-menopause is the period of the highest probability of the development of tumor diseases.
Early diagnosis, regardless of age, allows better treatment of the disease. Thus, it is crucial to be alert in cases of breast pain in elderly females. But what is there to do if the person received a diagnosis?
Causes Of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is caused by a mutation of cells in the breast, but its not exactly clear what causes that mutation. Whereas with lung cancer, for example, its easier to point to an activity like smoking as the root cause, the same does not hold true for breast cancer.
However, there are risk factors for senior breast cancer and they include:
It should be noted that these risk factors are not direct causes of breast cancer.
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Treatment For Physical Symptoms
The American Cancer Society urge that a person should not have to endure pain in the final months and days of life.
Many people find relief with opioid medications, but these can cause side effects such as fatigue and constipation. A person may use opioids in combination with other pain relief medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Other drugs, such as antidepressants and antiseizure medications, can also treat certain types of pain.
Doctors can also prescribe medications for nausea and vomiting. Some drugs for treating nausea can make a person drowsy. However, these drugs may help people eat and drink more or simply make it easier for them to function and interact with other people.
What Are The Types Of Breast Cancer
There are different types of breast cancer. The types are based on which breast cells turn into cancer. The types include:
- Ductal carcinoma, which begins in the cells of the ducts. This is the most common type.
- Lobular carcinoma, which begins in the lobules. It is more often found in both breasts than other types of breast cancer.
- Inflammatory breast cancer, in which cancer cells block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast. The breast becomes warm, red, and swollen. This is a rare type.
- Paget’s disease of the breast, which is a cancer involving the skin of the nipple. It usually also affects the darker skin around the nipple. It is also rare.
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Breast Cancer And Seniors: What You Need To Know
According to the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results registry, The median age of a breast cancer diagnosis is 62 and nearly 20 percent of women diagnosed are over the age of 75. Researchers also predict that cancer diagnoses in women ages 70 to 84 will continue to increase.
The good news is that breast cancer is still treatable and survivable for seniors. Whereas radical mastectomies were once commonplace, with advancements in research and treatment, they are now fairly rare with other options proving effective. More studies are being conducted to better understand cancer development and treatment effects on older adults. It is important that the patients age and functional ability be taken into consideration when undergoing chemotherapy treatment to reduce risk of potential toxicities and minimize the impact on their quality of life.
Breast Cancer Signs and Symptoms
Early detection is still key when it comes to effectively treating breast cancer. Women should continue to receive annual or biennial mammograms to monitor breast health and detect any changes. Unfortunately, doctors have found that seniors tend to become less consistent with yearly breast screenings. Monthly self-exams are also recommended, as well as paying attention to warning signs that may indicate breast cancer.
Signs and symptoms include:
- A lump in the breast or underarm
- Visible changes in breast size or shape
- Redness or pitting of the skin
- Bloody discharge from the nipple
Virtual Second Opinion Option
If you have been diagnosed with cancer, have transportation concerns, and would like to get a second opinion from one of our expert senior adult oncologists, you can request a virtual senior adult visit. No referral is necessary.
If you would like to learn more, you can request an appointment with a specialist in Moffitts Senior Adult Oncology Program by calling or completing our new patient registration form.
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Home Care Services For Gretchen Lebron
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In-home Care for Jill Klein
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If Im 70 Or Older Will Invasive Breast Cancer Be Fatal
Though a cancer diagnosis is scary at any age, older adults may feel more vulnerable. But Tran says there are reasons not to panic.
In patients 70 years old or older, most of the time, the invasive cancer is hormone receptor positive, which means it is a slower-growing cancer.
Most patients treated for invasive breast cancer survive, she says. Even when you are diagnosed at an older age, you can successfully complete your therapy, go on living and eventually die from causes other than breast cancer.
This is especially true for those who are in good general health at the time of their diagnosis and who are able to care for themselves.
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Can I Be Screened For Breast Cancer
BreastScreen Australia offers a free screening program for women at risk of breast cancer:
- If youre aged between 50 and 74 years, youll be invited to access a free mammograms every 2 years. This is because nearly 4 in 5 breast cancers occur in women aged over 50.
- If youre aged between 40 and 49 years or over 75 years, you are also eligible but wont be contacted about it.
- Women under 40 years of age are usually not offered breast screening because the density of their breast tissue makes it harder to detect cancers on mammograms.
Younger women with a strong family history of breast or ovarian cancer, or women with breast cancer diagnosed in the last 5 years may also benefit from breast screening. For more details, call BreastScreen Australia on 13 20 50 or visit their website.
Can Breast Cancer Be Prevented
Unfortunately, there isnt a way to prevent breast cancer completely. However, lifestyle choices such as maintaining a healthy weight and lowering alcohol consumption can help to reduce your risk of breast cancer.
If you are at high risk of developing breast cancer, your doctor may suggest hormone treatments , or a pre-emptive mastectomy.
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A Guide To Breast Cancer In Older Adults
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in elderly women. A woman has a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer over her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. The older a woman is, the more likely it is she will be diagnosed with the disease. On average and across all races, there is about a 9 percent chance that a 60-year-old woman develops senior breast cancer over her next 20 years.
Nearly 275,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year, with more than three million survivors of the disease living at any given time, according to the American Cancer Society. About half of the newly diagnosed breast cancer cases come from women over the age of 60, and another 20 percent come from women over 70 years old. At age 80, the chances of you developing breast cancer over the rest of your life begin to decrease, according to Harvard Medical School.
Unfortunately, women over 65 who are diagnosed with early onset breast cancer are more likely to pass away due to the disease. Women in that same age group are more likely to have the cancer recur, as well. More than 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year.
Its vital that womenand their loved onesknow the warning signs, causes, and different types of breast cancer, as well as how and when to get tested, and how it can be treated and prevented.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
One of the most important steps in beating breast cancer is catching it at the earliest possible stage. This is why its vital to know the signs and symptoms of senior breast cancer.
The most common symptom is a lump on your breast. While most lumps on the breast are benign, about 20 percent are cancerous. Theyre especially concerning if youre over 40, because it is more likely the lumps are connected to cancer rather than an injection or benign tumors. The root cause of the lump is often seen during mammograms before they develop into lumps on the breast. So while lumps can be a sign, there are other signs on and around the breast that can indicate the presence of senior breast cancer. These include:
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Living With Breast Cancer
Being diagnosed with breast cancer can affect daily life in many ways, depending on what stage it’s at and the treatment you will have.
How people cope with the diagnosis and treatment varies from person to person. There are several forms of support available, if you need it.
Forms of support may include:
- family and friends, who can be a powerful support system
- communicating with other people in the same situation
- finding out as much as possible about your condition
- not trying to do too much or overexerting yourself
- making time for yourself
Find out more about living with breast cancer.
What Are The Common Signs And Symptoms Of Breast Cancer
The following early signs and symptoms of breast cancer can happen with other conditions that are not cancer related.
- New lump in the breast or underarm
- Thickening or swelling of part of the breast
- Irritation or dimpling of breast skin
- Redness or flaky skin in the nipple area of the breast
- Pulling in of the nipple or pain in the nipple area
- Nipple discharge other than breast milk, including blood
- Any change in the size or the shape of the breast
- Pain in any area of the breast
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What Are The Treatments For Breast Cancer
Treatments for breast cancer include:
- Surgery such as
- A mastectomy, which removes the whole breast
- A lumpectomy to remove the cancer and some normal tissue around it, but not the breast itself
What Are The Breast Cancer Stages
Staging helps describe how much cancer is in your body. Its determined by several factors, including the size and location of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread to other areas of your body. The basic breast cancer stages are:
- Stage 0. The disease is non-invasive. This means it hasnt broken out of your breast ducts.
- Stage I. The cancer cells have spread to the nearby breast tissue.
- Stage II. The tumor is either smaller than 2 centimeters across and has spread to underarm lymph nodes or larger than 5 centimeters across but hasnt spread to underarm lymph nodes. Tumors at this stage can measure anywhere between 2 to 5 centimeters across, and may or may not affect the nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage III. At this stage, the cancer has spread beyond the point of origin. It may have invaded nearby tissue and lymph nodes, but it hasnt spread to distant organs. Stage III is usually referred to as locally advanced breast cancer.
- Stage IV. The cancer has spread to areas away from your breast, such as your bones, liver, lungs or brain. Stage IV breast cancer is also called metastatic breast cancer.
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Breast Cancer Treatment And Prevention
Once a breast cancer diagnosis is confirmed, treatment starts almost immediately. Treatment depends on the type of cancer, the stage it is in, the size of the tumor is and if it has spread, and the type of tumor. All of this information helps doctors determine how to best move forward in your treatment.
Treatment options for senior breast cancer include: