October is breast cancer awareness month—and that means it’s time to bring awareness about this very real and very dangerous disease. About 17% of women diagnosed with breast cancer die from it, despite the fact that if it is caught early, survival rate is north of 98%. Even as more and more successful treatment regimens are developed, more and more women die from this kind of cancer every year. This is largely due to the expense, unavailability, or inconvenience of breast cancer screenings. It’s important to raise breast cancer awareness and for seniors especially to stick to a strict schedule of mammograms.
Breast cancer does not just affect seniors, but breast cancer in seniors can often be more devastating than breast cancer in other age ranges. Age is one of the first risk factors listed for breast cancer, as abnormal cell growth is naturally more common in order women than in younger women. 80% of all breast cancer is found in women who are over the age of fifty, with 60% of those cases occurring in women who are over the age of sixty-five. While it is relatively uncommon for a thirty-year-old woman to discover she has breast cancer, it is very common for an eighty-year-old woman to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Though breast cancer awareness has increased over the last decade, there is still little known about breast cancer in seniors, simply because there are fewer women over the age of fifty in clinical trials. Seniors also have more roadblocks when it comes to treatment of breast cancer, including not being able to drive to appointments or not being able to afford treatment.
The side effects of the most effective treatments for breast cancer are also amplified for seniors, and some insurance policies won’t cover treatments like chemotherapy. This doesn’t mean that there are no treatment options. Many patients have great success with surgeries to remove lumps and tumors, while radiation therapy and hormone therapy can also help. As medicine advances, doctors are looking for treatments that are better suited for older patients, especially when it comes to reducing side effects and reducing treatment time.
We use the month of October to create and spread awareness of the disease, and most importantly honor those who have fought it, are fighting it, and those who support them.