Study: Older women also benefit from chemotherapy

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Women age 65 and older with breast cancer are as likely to benefit as much from chemotherapy as younger patients, a new study shows.

Older women, therefore, should consider chemotherapy even though past data indicates such treatment may be underused or given at reduced doses because of the fear of side effects, say researchers at the Vermont Cancer Center, Burlington. The study report was published in the March 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In their review of cases between 1975 and 1999, doctors found that the group of older women experienced a reduced relapse rate and a drop in their breast cancer mortality rate when treated with a higher dose chemotherapy. Essentially, the doctors said the results seen were similar to those of younger patients.

According to the study report, nearly half of all new breast cancers in the United States occur in women 65 or older.