Communication with older breast cancer patients

Breast J. 2007 Jul-Aug;13(4):406-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1524-4741.2007.00449.x.


An increasing proportion of patients with breast cancer are aged above 70 at the time of diagnosis and yet this particular age group has been underserved in terms of clinical research. Good communication between a doctor and a patient implies giving the advice and treatment most appropriate to that particular individual's needs, based upon their health and the tumor characteristics in the framework of their experience and belief system. Doctors need to be able to pick up both verbal and nonverbal cues and whenever possible to place the needs of the patient rather than her relatives as paramount. Consultations may be blighted at the onset by delays, unsympathetic staff, and patronizing doctors. Many older patients will wish to avoid mastectomy and for those with hormonally sensitive tumors wide excision and tamoxifen without axillary clearance or breast irradiation may provide a safe option. Undertreatment of those with hormonally insensitive cancer may lead to an increased risk of recurrence and premature death from breast cancer. Although there is an increasing realization of the need for clinical studies in older patients this group are grossly under-represented in trial portfolios.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Physician-Patient Relations*