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Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy Safe for Older Patients

Published on April 21, 2012 by

In the newest issue of The American Surgeon, a new study suggests that breast reconstruction surgery is safe for women over the age of 60 who have undergone a mastectomy (surgical removal of the breast).

“The removal of a breast has implications for the psychological, social and sexual well-being of the patient, establishing the need that reconstruction should be offered,” says Marissa Howard-McNatt, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist. “However, little is known about rates of reconstruction in elderly women after breast cancer.”

Breast cancer rates continue to rise and 48 percent of all cases affect women over the age of 65. This population, however, is much less inclined to elect breast reconstruction after mastectomy when compared to their younger counterparts. As a result, less has been known regarding the safety of this procedure in older women.

Research lead by Howard-McNatt and colleges sought to establish the safety and tolerability of breast reconstruction in older patients. The team of researchers compiled data from 89 cases of women over the age of 60 who elected breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

The results were positive, showing that breast reconstruction in older women was a safe and well tolerated option, even if older women are less likely to elect surgery than younger age groups.

According to Howard-McNatt, breast reconstruction can significantly increase life expectancy in these patients. “Generally, breast cancer in the elderly is less aggressive than in younger patients. Life expectancy can still be substantial – 16 years for a 70-year-old and greater than six years for an otherwise healthy 80-year-old.”

The number of women over the age of 65 is expected to double over the next 40 years and the rates of breast reconstruction after mastectomy is anticipated to increase as average life expectancies do.

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