Successful management of elderly breast cancer patients treated without radiotherapy
Abstract Background Breast cancer in the elderly may follow a less aggressive course. There are data suggesting that radiotherapy (RT) following breast conserving surgery (BCS) for invasive carcinoma may not be necessary in some elderly patients. The addition of RT to surgery might constitute an imposition to such patients due to age-related factors. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of BCS without adjuvant RT in this group of patients. Patients and methods A retrospective review of 92 elderly (median age 75 years; range: 70 – 87 years) patients (analysed as 93 'patients' due to one patient having bilateral cancers) managed in a dedicated breast clinic and who underwent BCS for invasive carcinoma was carried out. Eighty-three patients did not receive postoperative RT to the breast (no-RT group) whereas the remaining 10 had RT (RT-group). Results The median age in this group was 75 (range 70 – 87) years. The mean tumour size was 18 mm with a median follow-up of 37 (range 6 – 142) months. In the no RT group, adjuvant endocrine therapy with tamoxifen was given to 40/53 patients. No patients in the oestrogen receptor (ER) negative group received tamoxifen. The local recurrence (LR) rate in this group was 8.4% (2.4% per year, n = 7/83), with median time to LR of 17 months. In this no-RT group LR was correlated to ER status (2/53 ER+, 5/26ER-, p = 0.024) and margins of excision (n = 1/54 >5 mm, 2/17 1–5 mm, 4/12 <1 mm, p = 0.001). Within the ER positive group the LR rate was 0.92% per annum (0.62% per annum in patients treated with adjuvant tamoxifen, regardless of margin status). Breast cancer specific survival was correlated to histological grade (p < 0.05) and ER status (p < 0.05). Conclusion It would appear that omission of RT following successful BCS in elderly patients with ER positive tumours receiving adjuvant tamoxifen may be acceptable. The LR rate as shown in this retrospective study is highly comparable to that of younger patients treated by conventional therapy. This concept is now being evaluated prospectively following a change in treatment practice.
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