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Breast Cancer and The Elderly

Eighty percent of all breast cancer occurs in women over 50, and 60% are found in women over 65. The chance that a woman will get breast cancer increases from 1-in-233 for a woman in her thirties, to a 1-in-8 chance for a woman in her eighties.

When detected early, Breast cancer can be treated successfully 90% of the time. Researchers continue to make impressive gains in the detection, diagnosis, and treatment of breast cancer. However, breast cancer in seniors remains a very potent disease that will only be eradicated if women follow the recommended schedule and undergo annual mammograms. 

The average age of diagnosis is 62,” says Dr. Julie Gralow, associate professor of medical oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and medical oncologist at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. “So the majority of women getting breast cancer are over the age of 50.

In Nigeria, female breast cancer is recognized as major cause of morbidity and mortality with incidence rate ranging from 36.3 to 50.2/100,000 live births. It is the most common cancer among Nigerian women.

Unfortunately, women over 65 who are diagnosed with 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.

Like all cancers, breast cancer begins with abnormal cell growth. These “bad” cells develop too quickly and spread, or metastasize, throughout the breast, often entering lymph nodes located under the arm or even moving into other parts of the body.

There are several signs of potential breast cancer, including a bloody discharge from or retraction of the nipple; a change in the size or contour of the breast; and a flattening, redness, or pitting of skin over the breast. A lump in the breast remains the most common sign.

If a woman detects a lump, she should see her doctor; however, the Mayo Clinic recommends waiting through one menstrual cycle, as breast shape changes throughout the cycle.

How to reduce your risk of breast cancer

Research shows that lifestyle changes can decrease the risk of breast cancer, even in women at high risk. To lower your risk:

  • Limit alcohol. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing breast cancer. The general recommendation — based on research on the effect of alcohol on breast cancer risk — is to limit yourself to less than one drink a day, as even small amounts increase risk.
  • Don’t smoke. Evidence suggests a link between smoking and breast cancer risk, particularly in premenopausal women.
  • Control your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer. This is especially true if obesity occurs later in life, particularly after menopause.
  • Be physically active. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, which helps prevent breast cancer. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity weekly, plus strength training at least twice a week.
  • Breast-feed. Breast-feeding might play a role in breast cancer prevention. The longer you breast-feed, the greater the protective effect.
  • Limit dose and duration of hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy for more than three to five years increases the risk of breast cancer. If you’re taking hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms, ask your doctor about other options. You might be able to manage your symptoms with nonhormonal therapies and medications. If you decide that the benefits of short-term hormone therapy outweigh the risks, use the lowest dose that works for you and continue to have your doctor monitor the length of time you’re taking hormones.
  • Avoid exposure to radiation and environmental pollution. Medical-imaging methods, such as computerized tomography, use high doses of radiation. While more studies are needed, some research suggests a link between breast cancer and cumulative exposure to radiation over your lifetime. Reduce your exposure by having such tests only when absolutely necessary.

If you are a senior citizen and have any questions regarding breast cancer we can talk on 08037215916 or 08086278950


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