Radiotherapy issues in elderly breast cancer patients

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Breast cancer in the elderly is a rising health care challenge. Under-treatment is common. While the proportion of older patients receiving adjuvant radiotherapy (RT) is rising, the proportion undergoing breast-conserving surgery without irradiation has also risen. The evidence base for loco-regional treatment is limited, reflecting the historical exclusion of older patients from randomised trials. The 2011 Oxford overview shows that the risk of first recurrence is halved in all age groups by adjuvant RT after breast-conserving surgery, although the absolute benefit in older 'low-risk' patients is small. There is level 1 evidence that a breast boost after breast-conserving surgery and whole-breast irradiation reduces local recurrence in older as in younger women, although in the former the absolute reduction is modest. Partial breast irradiation (external beam or intraoperative or postoperative brachytherapy) is potentially an attractive option for older patients, but the evidence base is insufficient to recommend it routinely. Similarly, shortened (hypofractionated) dose fraction schedules may be more convenient for older patients and are supported by level 1 evidence. There remains uncertainty about whether there is a subgroup of older low-risk patients in whom postoperative RT can be omitted after breast-conserving surgery. Biomarkers of 'low risk' are needed to refine the selection of patients for the omission of adjuvant RT. The role of postmastectomy irradiation is well established for 'high-risk' patients but uncertain in the intermediate-risk category of patients with 1-3 involved axillary nodes or node-negative patients with other risk factors where its role is investigational.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-9
Number of pages7
JournalBreast Care
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


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