Older women with breast cancer set to quadruple by 2040

Calls for change in NHS older patient care

The NHS must prepare for a “dramatic” increase in the number of older women living with breast cancer over the next 30 years, according to a major cancer charity.

Research funded by Macmillan Cancer Support published today predicts that the number of women aged 65 and over with breast cancer in the UK will almost quadruple from 340,000 in 2010 to 1.2 million in 2040.

This is almost double the increase expected for younger age groups.

The study, carried out by King’s College London, forecasts that the proportion of breast cancer survivors who are aged 65 and over will rise from 59% today to 73% in 2040.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said the NHS is already struggling to provide adequate care for older breast cancer patients.

He said: “We need to change the way we care for older breast cancer patients now - so that we are prepared for such a dramatic increase in numbers.”

He also warned that “too many cancer doctors” are making assumptions based on age which often result in inadequate care for older women with breast cancer.

Macmillan says statistics show that older women are significantly more likely to be diagnosed later with advanced breast cancer, while they are also less likely to undergo breast conserving surgery than younger women.

And a report by the Royal College of Surgeons and Age UK published yesterday accused the NHS of restricting surgery for older people based on “outdated assumptions” of the relationship between age and health.

Devene said: “We can never assume that because a woman is older that she will not cope with surgery or that she is less interested in body image than a younger woman. It is our duty to ensure that every cancer patient has access to the best possible care.”

comments powered by Disqus