Breast cancer

01 November 2016

Breast reconstruction beneficial also for older women

Researchers found that older women did not suffer more complications as a result of breast reconstruction, and that age alone should not disqualify a woman from having the surgery.

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Older women who have had a breast removed due to cancer benefit as much as younger women from breast reconstruction, a new study shows.

Different age groups

Since the researchers also found that older women did not suffer more complications than younger women, age alone should not disqualify a woman from having the surgery, they added.

Their study involved more than 1,500 women in the United States and Canada who had breast reconstruction after breast removal (mastectomy). The study authors included almost 500 women under age 45; about 800 between 45 and 60; and 234 over 60.

Women in the two younger groups were just as satisfied with their new breasts as before the surgery while women 60 and older were slightly less so.

Read: Breast reconstruction increases wellbeing

Women who got breast implants had fewer complications than those whose own tissue was used for breast reconstruction.

Among those who had implants, 22 percent of the youngest patients, 27 percent of middle-aged patients and 29 percent of older patients had complications. Complication rates for women whose own tissue was used were 33 percent in younger women; 29 percent in the middle-aged; and 31 percent in older women.

The study was published online in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

Quality of life

"Breast reconstruction has been described as a 'reverse mastectomy'. Given the findings from our study, it's hard to dispute that contention, regardless of age," principal author Dr Edwin Wilkins said in a journal news release. Wilkins is a professor of plastic surgery in the University of Michigan Health System.

"Surgeons and patients may have preconceived notions that breast reconstruction is not as good an option in older women as it is in younger patients. According to findings from this study, reconstruction provided the benefits it was expected to provide for quality of life and body image, and age did not significantly affect complications," Wilkins said.

Read: Myths about breast reconstruction

Of the nearly 250,000 women in the United States who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, 40 percent will be 62 or older. The use of mastectomy to treat breast cancer has risen in the past decade, but older women are less likely to have breast reconstruction than younger ones, the researchers said.

Read more:

What is breast reconstruction?

Types of breast reconstruction

Breast reconstruction and personal considerations

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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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