Age Bias Is a Problem for Breast Cancer Patients
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and today, we have a guest blog from No Matter My Age, an organization created to help raise awareness about age bias in genomic testing within the breast cancer community.
Over the past decade, studies have shown differences between the treatments administered to older women diagnosed with breast cancer and those given to younger women, along with their resulting outcomes. While treatments have improved for breast cancer patients as a whole, the rise in survival rates are much smaller in older patients than in younger patients.
Recently, a study from the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Registry looked at how often early stage breast cancer patients were receiving a genomic test to help guide them and their physicians with their treatment decisions. A genomic test, such as the Oncotype DX® breast test, analyzes the genes in a breast tumor and predicts the likelihood that a patient will benefit from chemotherapy as well as the chances of the breast cancer returning. Such information is critical when a patient faced the decision to undergo chemotherapy.
With more than 44,600 breast cancer patients in the study, results revealed that race, education and socio-economic status do not affect whether a woman receives a genomic test, but age does. In fact, the data showed that patients 70 years and older are more than three times less likely to receive a genomic test. As a result, older patients were more likely to not receive necessary treatment and had worse outcomes, including lower rates of breast cancer-specific survival.
These findings inspired No Matter My Age, an organization created to help raise awareness about age bias in genomic testing within the breast cancer community.
Older patients may be our mothers, sisters, friends and even ourselves – now or in the future. It’s critically important to have all the information about your breast cancer when
making a treatment.
Visit No Matter My Age to learn more and access a variety of resources including video, graphics, and questions to ask your doctor to share on social media and with your loved ones. The resources are designed to be shared so that all women, regardless of age, can be encouraged, advocate for themselves, and ask for a genomic test so they to learn about their individual cancer and all of their options before making a treatment decision.