Breast cancer treatment in elderly women remains a complex issue due to pre-existing comorbidities, therapy-related toxicities, and the lack of evidence-based data in this population, leading to both overtreatment and undertreatment.
The aim was to investigate the literature on breast surgical oncology in the older woman as a major therapeutic challenge: the 86 more consistent articles amongst 1440 potential citations according to PRISMA guidelines were retained.
Studies demonstrated that despite low-grade tumor types, lower incidence of axillary lymph node involvement, ER+ disease, and less aggressive tumor biology, elderly breast cancer patients often receive less than the standard-of-care when compared to their younger counterparts. The surgery omission in elderlies and the preference for the primary endocrine treatment is associated with worse survival, especially in patients aged 80 years or over – a cohort with no specific recommendations concerning breast and axillary surgical procedures. On the other hand, a higher mastectomy rate is still considered the standard treatment in older women with higher T2:T1 tumor ratio and greater difficulties to attend radiotherapy due to severe comorbidities. Surgical de-escalation procedures even in an-ambulatory setting are recognized as a feasible option in these patients to prevent or palliate breast or chest wall symptoms.
Benefits and disadvantages from surgery only or coupled with adjuvant therapies for elderly women were analyzed in literature, outlining a growing need for a proper geriatric assessment and short-stay surgical programs which are feasible today owing to the availability of less invasive approaches.