Breast cancer claims more lives in this country than any other, besides lung cancer. A recent FutureMedicine.com medical essay stated that over 40 percent of all diagnosed breast cancers are in women aged 65 years or older. When we consider that one out of every eight women in the U.S. who reach 80 years old will develop breast cancer, it becomes quite alarmingly clear that our elderly mothers are especially at risk.
It is wonderful to know that – as with prostate cancer – breast cancer death rates have fallen steadily in recent decades. But it is still all too common. Did you know that among women over 45 years old, Caucasians are more likely to develop breast cancer – but African-Americans are more likely than all other women to die from it? Early detection is crucial. And if your loved one is diagnosed, being fully aware of her treatment options is a vital step toward recovery. Though much of that education comes via her physicians, we will find out a bit more about breast cancer and discuss some avenues of treatment here.
BreastCancer.org reports that last year, 30 percent of all cancers in women originated in the breast. And though a woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if her sister, mother or daughter develops it, 85 percent of all cases were among women who had no family history of it.
Earlier we mentioned the promising news that breast cancer death rates are falling. According to BreastCancer.org, many scientists believe that this is partially because fewer women have been engaging in hormone replacement therapy, which a 2002 medical report suggested could lead to breast cancer. This fact, combined with significant medical advances and increased overall public awareness, may indeed be why the numbers are decreasing.
While this article may lean toward the gynocentric, it is important to note that breast cancer in men, while not nearly as common, does occur. A man’s risk is one in 1,000.
Breast Cancer Treatments
The four most widely-performed breast cancer treatments are surgery, radiation, drug therapy, and chemotherapy.
During a lumpectomy, the tumor is removed. A mastectomy is the removal of the entire breast. While in the past, the surgery option was not often considered for elderly women, this has changed. Surgery can be combined with radiation therapy for better results.
Radiation and Drug Therapy
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells. It comes in two forms: external beam and internal. The length of therapy is a few weeks, at most. Drugs that target cancer-causing proteins, like Trastuzumab, have become more popular, as has hormone therapy (not to be confused with HRT, above), in which drugs are used to lower the body’s estrogen level to prevent it from binding to cancer cells.
Chemotherapy is generally reserved for when cancer has spread into other parts of the body. As with other treatments, it is typically done generally in conjunction with other forms of treatment.
Scientists are frequently discovering new ways to combat breast cancer. Hopefully, one day it will be a thing of the past. But until then, it is best to receive regular examinations – and make sure that your mom does the same. It could literally be a life-saver.
There is so much to think about when entering the later stages of life. If you are considering elder care options, we at 805Aging can help. Our professional staff specializes in assisting you to choose the right kind of care for your loved one.
We conduct regular check-ins when you are unable to do so. 805Aging also provides oversight and detailed feedback to the family to keep your loved one safe and well-cared for day or night, weekday or weekend, holiday and every day.
We have the resources. We can hold your hand. We can guide you. Your peace of mind is our main goal, and is well assured. To find out more, call us at 805-750-4755 or visit our website and sign up for our monthly newsletter: www.805Aging.com.
There is no manual on how to take care of your parents as they age. They had a baby book when you were young. You have us. -Amy