Will Age Affect My Breast Cancer Surgery Decision?

While age is a factor in breast cancer surgery options, your overall health is a much more important factor in the decision-making process.

Age Affect My Breast Cancer Surgery DecisionMany women wonder: will age affect my breast cancer surgery decision? Just as your breast cancer is unique to you, so are your treatment decisions. One factor that patients often ask about as they begin thinking about breast cancer surgery is whether or not age should play a factor in their decision. There are two main components to the surgery: the surgery itself, and the recovery process. It is important not only to take overall health into consideration for the surgical procedure itself, but for the recovery time involved, says Dr. Julie Billar.

Watch as Dr. Billar explains how age factors into the breast cancer surgery decision.

Video Transcript

Julie Billar, M.D.: Age is a question that a lot of women bring up for breast cancer surgery and while age is not the limiting factor alone in our decisions, it certainly plays a big role in how one recovers after surgery.

How age affects breast cancer surgery is probably a question I would divide into two parts. First would be, how age affects what surgery we can offer to patients; second is probably how age affects how a woman recovers and heals after surgery.

I will tackle the first part first. Age alone is usually not the limiting factor on what we can offer patients. We usually take into account things like the tumor size, the size of the woman’s breast, her other medical problems, the biology of the tumor, multiple things go into that decision. If a woman is otherwise eligible in terms of the tumor size for a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, we will offer either one and we take the patient’s preference into account to make that final decision. I wouldn’t say that age alone limits them.

On the other hand, though, sometimes age comes with a few more medical problems, and that can certainly weigh into what we decide for a patient’s recommendations. If we have a more elderly patient who has more medical problems, a lot of times if we are looking at a lumpectomy or a mastectomy and it looks like it would be more difficult for that patient to recuperate after a longer surgery, let’s say from a mastectomy, then we will favor a lumpectomy for that person instead.

The second part of the question kind of tackles what the recovery anticipation should be for patients depending on their age. You know, many younger women have more strength, more energy and can bounce back from surgery a little bit more quickly than our elderly patients. Although to some degree, our elderly patients have less pain after surgery, some say because as you get older, your pain fibers fizzle out a little.

Generally both age ranges heal very well after a surgery. It’s just important to make sure that you are in as healthy of a state as you can before surgery to aid your recovery after surgery.

Julie Billar
A graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Dr. Julie Billar completed her internship and residency in General Surgery at Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education.Dr. Billar is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and specializes in the treatment of breast disease as well as breast and lymph node surgeries.
Julie Billar

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