Older Patients With Early-stage Breast Cancer: Adjuvant Radiation Therapy and Predictive Factors for Cancer-related Death

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Abstract

Purpose:

Studies have shown that older women are undertreated for breast cancer. Few data are available on cancer-related death in elderly women aged 70 years and older with pathologic stage T1a-b N0 breast cancer and the impact of prognostic factors on cancer-related death.

Methods:

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database was queried for women aged 70 years or above diagnosed with pT1a or pT1b, N0 breast cancer who underwent breast conservation surgery from 1999 to 2003. The Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was performed to evaluate breast cause-specific survival (CSS) and overall survival (OS), and the log-rank test was employed to compare CSS/OS between different groups of interest. Multivariable analysis (MVA), using Cox proportional hazards regression analysis, was performed to evaluate the independent effect of age, race, stage, grade, ER status, and radiation treatment on CSS. Adjusted hazard ratios were calculated from the MVA and reflect the increased risk of breast cancer death. Competing-risks survival regression was also performed to adjust the univariate and multivariable CSS hazard ratios for the competing event of death due to causes other than breast cancer.

Results:

Patients aged 85 and above had a greater risk of breast cancer death compared with patients aged 70 to 74 years (referent category) (adjusted hazard ratio [HRs]=1.98). Race had no effect on CSS. Patients with stage T1bN0 breast cancer had a greater risk of breast cancer death compared with stage T1aN0 patients (adjusted HR=1.35; P=0.09). ER negative patients had a greater risk of breast cancer death compared with ER positive patients (adjusted HR=1.59; P<0.017). Patients with higher grade tumors had a greater risk of breast cancer death compared with patients with grade 1 tumors (referent category) (adjusted HRs=1.69 and 2.96 for grade 2 and 3, respectively). Patients who underwent radiation therapy had a lower risk of breast cancer death compared with patients who did not (adjusted HR=0.55; P<0.0001).

Conclusions:

Older patients with higher grade, pT1b, ER-negative breast cancer had increased risk of breast cancer-related death. Adjuvant radiation therapy may provide a CSS benefit in this elderly patient population.

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