Breast cancer in elderly women (≥70 years): Which treatment

Gabriele Martelli, Giuseppe De Palo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Breast cancer is a disease that affects women >70 years of age much more frequently than other age groups. Epidemiologic data show that more than 40% of breast cancers occur in the elderly. The optimal primary treatment for elderly patients with breast cancer is controversial and ranges from tamoxifen as sole therapy to surgery. Despite the high prevalence of the disease, the elderly have been excluded from clinical trials mainly for the presence of concurrent medical conditions that adversely affect treatment strategies. Since life expectancy continues to increase in western countries, an appropriate treatment that respects quality of life needs to be determined for the elderly age group. In the light of randomised and retrospective studies carried out to date, limited surgery without axillary dissection plus adjuvant tamoxifen seems to achieve, mainly for elderly patients with early stage breast cancer, a local-regional control rate comparable to that obtained with more aggressive therapeutic strategies. The results of ongoing prospective clinical trials will show whether or not conservative surgery without axillary clearance and tamoxifen may be routinely used for elderly patients with early breast cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)421-424
Number of pages4
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1999


  • Axillary lymph node dissection
  • Breast cancer
  • Conservative surgery
  • Elderly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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