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Older women with breast cancer report

Published on 01 November 2011 05:00 PM

Improving outcomes and experiences for older women with breast cancer

Breast Cancer Care, the leading breast cancer support and information charity in the UK, has produced a new report, supported by Age UK, that makes clear recommendations to improve outcomes and experiences for older women with breast cancer. Older women are a demographic proven to have poorer relative survival rates, as well as an increased likelihood of presenting later with symptoms and of receiving non-standard treatments.

Breast Cancer Care will launch their policy briefing on improving outcomes and experiences for older women with breast cancer on 17th November 2011 as part of their ongoing commitment to understanding and tackling health inequalities. The briefing is aimed at policy makers and healthcare professionals concerned with improving services and the quality of life of older people with breast cancer in the UK. In the report Breast Cancer Care expresses concern that many older women may not be receiving the level and type of support, treatment and information they need or that is comparative to that of younger women.*

It is estimated that almost 10% of the total female population aged over 65 years is living with a diagnosis of breast cancer (Cancer Research UK, 2011, citing Maddams et al, 2008). For women with symptomatic breast cancers in 2007 (excluding those cancers that are detected through screening), five year relative survival was 86% in women aged 40-49 years and only 62% in women aged 80 years and above (WMCIU, 2011).

Breast Cancer Care's Director of Policy & Research, Liz Carroll, comments, 'At the crux of this briefing is how important it is that older women are valued in the health system. Breast cancer risk increases with age, yet older women are rarely targeted by specific health promotion initiatives and current evidence suggests that some older patients in the UK are being under-treated when there is no clinical reason for this conservatism. There needs to be more breast health promotion initiatives specifically targeting older women. Older women with breast cancer deserve personalised care plans that are not based on chronological age and access to appropriate information and support based on their individual needs.'

Grace, 68, was diagnosed with breast cancer six years ago and felt, 'like a non-person, like a piece of meat on a conveyor belt with no voice and no right to information'.

'Initially, there was no discussion. I was informed that ‘what we did' was the gold standard. I had to push for other options and was discouraged from exploring the treatment I wanted. My other medical conditions were glossed over (ischaemic heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, osteoporosis). Also my emotional fragility having just learned that my husband had throat cancer which was immediately life threatening - there was no understanding that I didn't want us to be in different hospitals at the same time. I was told there were young women [with breast cancer] with young children and they were coping so I should.'

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK said: 'This timely report by Breast Cancer Care reveals some of the obstacles faced by older women in getting the diagnosis and treatment they need for their breast cancer. Age UK believes such issues are often rooted in misplaced assumptions that older people are less likely to benefit from treatment or that older people are somehow peripheral to the NHS rather than its largest users. The outcome of failing to treat older people fairly is higher excess mortality and lives being cut short.'

For more information or to receive a copy of Improving outcomes and experiences for older women with breast cancer, please contact Caroline Sargent at the Breast Cancer Care Press Office, 020 7960 3450 or email

* Although rare, men are also at greater risk of a breast cancer diagnosis the older they get.


Media contact: Natalie Owen
Tel: 020 3033 1438

Notes to editors:

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).


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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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