Surgery is a mainstay of breast cancer treatment. For most women, it offers a good chance of a cure.
But for frail nursing home residents, breast cancer surgery can harm health and even hasten death, researchers reported Wednesday in the journal JAMA Surgery.
According to USA Today, some experts are now questioning why patients who are fragile and advanced in age are screened for breast cancer, let alone given aggressive treatment.
The researchers examined the records of nearly 6,000 nursing home residents who underwent inpatient breast cancer surgery the past decade. They found that 31 percent to 42 percent died within a year of the procedure.
That’s significantly higher than the 25 percent of nursing home residents who die in a typical year, said Dr. Victoria Tang, lead author and an assistant professor of geriatrics and hospital medicine at the University of California-San Francisco.
Tang’s study doesn’t include information about causes of death. But she said she suspects that many of the women died of underlying health problems or complications related to surgery, which can further weaken older patients.
Patients who were the least able to take care of themselves before surgery, for example, were the most likely to die within the following year. Dementia also increased the risk of death.
It’s unlikely that many of the deaths were due to breast cancer, which often grows slowly in the elderly, Tang said. Breast cancers often take a decade to turn fatal.
Read the full story at USA Today.