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Breast Reconstruction Worthwhile for Older Women: Study

FRIDAY, Oct. 28, 2016 -- Older women who have had a breast removed due to cancer benefit as much as younger women from breast reconstruction, a new study shows.

Since the researchers also found that older women did not suffer more complications than younger women, age alone should not disqualify a woman from having the surgery, they added.

Their study involved more than 1,500 women in the United States and Canada who had breast reconstruction after breast removal (mastectomy). The study authors included almost 500 women under age 45; about 800 between 45 and 60; and 234 over 60.

Women in the two younger groups were just as satisfied with their new breasts as before the surgery while women 60 and older were slightly less so.

Women who got breast implants had fewer complications than those whose own tissue was used for breast reconstruction.

Among those who had implants, 22 percent of the youngest patients, 27 percent of middle-aged patients and 29 percent of older patients had complications. Complication rates for women whose own tissue was used were 33 percent in younger women; 29 percent in the middle-aged; and 31 percent in older women.

The study was published online Oct. 26 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

"Breast reconstruction has been described as a 'reverse mastectomy.' Given the findings from our study, it's hard to dispute that contention, regardless of age," principal author Dr. Edwin Wilkins said in a journal news release. Wilkins is a professor of plastic surgery in the University of Michigan Health System.

"Surgeons and patients may have preconceived notions that breast reconstruction is not as good an option in older women as it is in younger patients. According to findings from this study, reconstruction provided the benefits it was expected to provide for quality of life and body image, and age did not significantly affect complications," Wilkins said.

Of the nearly 250,000 women in the United States who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, 40 percent will be 62 or older. The use of mastectomy to treat breast cancer has risen in the past decade, but older women are less likely to have breast reconstruction than younger ones, the researchers said.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast reconstruction after mastectomy.

Posted: October 2016


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