Most Older Breast Cancer Patients Do Adhere to Their Hormone Therapies

July 31, 2014
Christina Izzo

According to a new study, most women aged 65 and older with non-metastatic breast cancer adhered to their hormone therapy.

According to a new study, most women aged 65 and older with non-metastatic breast cancer adhered to their hormone therapy.

The study, one of the most comprehensive looks at the use of hormone therapy in women over 65, is welcome news to oncologists.

“Women 65 years of age and older comprise about half of patients with breast cancer, but some studies have suggested this group initiates therapy less often and discontinues treatment more frequently than younger or middle aged women,” explained lead study author Vanessa B. Sheppard, PhD, in a statement. Sheppard is associate professor of oncology and assistant director of health disparities research at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We found a more positive picture of use—although more than half of patients discontinued use before the 5 years of recommended treatment, non-initiation of starting treatment was only 14%. This is reassuring, as it’s important for women to give themselves a chance for the best outcome possible, regardless of their age.”

The seven-year study was conducted at 78 institutions and clinics in the United States, enrolling 1062 elderly women aged 65 to 91 with locally invasive cancer that had not spread.

The study found that frail patients, or even “prefrail” patients, were the majority of patients who did not partake in hormone therapy treatment.

“It may be that these women, with the concurrence of their physicians, felt they would not live long enough to benefit from the therapy given competing health conditions, and they also may have wanted to avoid any toxicities from treatment,” Sheppard said.

The study also found that the discontinuation rate (stopping therapy before 5 years) was 51.5% and that the risk of discontinuation was higher with increasing age and lower for advanced stages of the disease.

“This rate of discontinuation is about the same seen in some other studies,” Sheppard said.