Elderly women with cervical cancer face double jeopardy. Not only does their advanced age decrease chances of survival, it also decreases the likelihood that they'll be given the most aggressive treatments for their disease, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The study is reported in the Jan. 1, 2005 issue of the journal Cancer.
"The aging of the U.S. population has increased interest in treatments for geriatric cancer patients, but there is very little data about treatment of cervical cancer in the elderly," says first author Jason Wright, M.D., a Washington University gynecological oncologist and part of a team of investigators associated with the Siteman Cancer Center.
A recent report issued by the National Cancer Institute showed that women ages 65 and older die from cervical cancer at a rate of 7.6 per 100,000, compared to 2.1 for women younger than 65.
The Washington University researchers analyzed medical records of more than 1,500 patients treated for invasive cervical cancer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Siteman Cancer Center between 1986 and 2003. They divided the records into two categories, women younger than 70 and women 70 or older.
Their study showed that regardless of the stage of tumor development, elderly patients were likely to receive less aggressive treatment. Surgery was used to treat 16 percent of the elderly group, whereas 54 percent the younger patients underwent surgery. The remainder of the patients were treated with radiation without surgery.
For women treated with radiation therapy alone, the chances of surviving were five times lower than for those treated surgically. Elderly women treated with radiation were given lower doses on average, and they were nine times more likely to forego treatment altogether.