Breast cancer patients seeing oncologists are getting better care
Those elderly women with breast cancer who are referred by their surgeons to cancer specialists are twice as likely to be prescribed tamoxifen, which is a treatment suggested for the prevention of recurrence of the disease as per new research findings.
Dr. Rebecca A. Silliman of the Boston University School of Public Health who is also the lead author of the study says that an opportunity should be given to elderly women for having these conversations with medical oncologists.
Silliman and her colleagues have published their findings in the medical journal “Cancer” which showed that though tamoxifen has been recommended for a long time to elderly women having estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers, older women except those with exceptionally low-risk tumors are less likely to receive definitive care than younger patients.
The aim of the study was to observe if the elderly women who met with a medical oncologist had greater chances of being prescribed tamoxifen therapy when appropriate.
559 patients who were 65 years of age or older with initial stage breast cancer who were treated by 191 surgeons were included in this study. After 3,6 and 15 months of surgery, such women were interviewed by telephone.
The investigators noted that 79% of the participants were sent to medical oncologists. The sicker patients were approximately half as likely to be referred as patients who were healthier.
The researchers also demonstrated the growing disparity in the treatment of cancer seen with age, which may lead to poor outcomes for older people. Silliman said that the quality of discussions and decisions concerning treatment options might be increased by more consistent referral of elderly women to medical oncologists.
Silliman further added that no matter if it is breast cancer or any other kind of cancer, the treatment decision-making in cancer is difficult and clearly charged emotionally. Silliman concluded by saying that it is really important to offer older women with the same kind of opportunity for treatment decision making because there is substantial future life expectancy for many of these women.