Factors Noted to Affect Breast Cancer Treatment Decisions of Women Aged 80 and Older

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To identify factors that influence the breast cancer treatment decisions of women aged 80 and older.

DESIGN:

Medical record review.

SETTING:

One academic primary care clinic and two community health centers in Boston.

PARTICIPANTS:

Sixty-five women aged 80 and older diagnosed with breast cancer between 1994 and 2004 and followed through June 30, 2010.

MEASUREMENTS:

Data were abstracted on breast cancer characteristics, comorbidities, treatments received, and outcomes. Notes from primary care physicians, oncologists, and breast surgeons were reviewed to determine factors involved in treatment decision-making.

RESULTS:

Median age at diagnosis was 84.0 (interquartile range 82.0–86.3), 55 (84.6%) were non-Hispanic white, and 40 (61.5%) had at least one comorbidity. Nine women were diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ, 42 with a new primary invasive breast cancer, eight with a second primary, and six with a breast cancer recurrence. Sixty-three (96.9%) received some type of treatment. Fifty-six (86.2%) had at least one detailed physician note on treatment decision-making in their charts. The main categories found to influence participant, family, and physician treatment decision-making were tumor characteristics, ratio of treatment benefits to risks, logistics (e.g., transportation, finances), and participant age, health (including a concurrent diagnosis), and psychosocial characteristics. Family was involved in treatment discussions for 46 (70.8%) participants.

CONCLUSION:

The quality of physician documentation about decision-making in these women was high. A great amount of thoughtful and complex decision-making involving patients, family, and physicians occurs after a woman aged 80 and older is diagnosed with breast cancer.

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