Elderly cancer patients should still consider breast reconstruction, study finds

Monday, December 12, 2011

Just because a mastectomy recipient is over the age of 65 doesn't mean she needs to write off the possibility of a breast reconstruction. That is the message of a study recently performed by a team of surgeons at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina.

Published in this month's issue of the journal The American Surgeon, the results indicated that breast reconstruction is "safe, feasible and well tolerated" among cancer survivors over the age of 65. The authors noted that - curiously, given the procedure's safety for elderly women - fewer pursue it than one might think.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) estimates that nearly 32,000 women aged 55 or older get breast reconstructions each year. However, there are limited statistics on how many of these patients are septuagenarians or beyond.

For the new study, scientists monitored the health and wellness of 89 elderly women given breast reconstructions following mastectomies. The group found that recovery and complication rates were similar to those for women in younger age brackets.

Lead author Marissa Howard-McNatt expressed curiosity as to why, then, more elderly breast cancer survivors don't seek reconstructions.

"Generally, breast cancer in the elderly is less aggressive than in younger patients. Life expectancy can still be substantial - 16 years for a 70-year-old and greater than six years for an otherwise healthy 80-year-old," she explained.

Howard-McNatt added that the average female life expectancy is projected to keep rising. By 2050, the population of women aged 65 or older will double, she said, hence the safety of breast reconstructions is increasingly making the procedure suitable for cancer survivors of all ages.

All told, more than 93,000 breast reconstructions are performed each years, according to the ASPS.


Advanced Age Should Not Deter Women from Breast Reconstruction after Cancer. Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. December 6, 2011. Accessed December 7, 2011.

2010 Reconstructive Demographics. American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2011. Accessed December 7, 2011.

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