Charity voices concerns about treatment of older breast cancer patients in Scotland

In collaboration with Adfero

Older women in Scotland who have been diagnosed with breast cancer do not always receive the same level of treatment as younger patients, the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer has said.

According to the charity, Scottish women over the age of 80 are 40 times less likely to be offered surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy for breast cancer.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer said that all women should have equal access to care, regardless of their age, and described the present situation as "wrong".

The charity has urged the Scottish government to ensure that older patients are treated on the basis of clinical need, not on age.

Audrey Birt, Scottish director of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "With over 4,000 women being diagnosed and around 1,000 women dying of breast cancer each year in Scotland, it is wrong that all women are not receiving equal access to the treatments they need, whatever their age.

"We are calling on the Scottish government to use its focus on quality of care to ensure older women with breast cancer are treated based on clinical need, not age."

Professor Mike Dixon, clinical lead at the Breakthrough Cancer research unit at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, commented: "We need to address this inequality as a priority by ensuring that access to diagnosis and treatment is improved across Scotland, whilst not losing sight of the importance of taking the overall health and wishes of each individual woman into account."

But a spokeswoman for the Scottish government insisted that all cancer patients are offered "the full range of appropriate treatment options regardless of age".

She added that decisions about the most appropriate treatment for each patient are made following a multidisciplinary team meeting, "and always in discussion with patients and carers".

Hilary Tovey, Cancer Research UK's policy manager, said: "We are pleased to see Breakthrough Breast Cancer tackling this important issue. We know that the five-year survival rate for breast cancer decreases for patients over 70 and that this drop in survival goes beyond what might be reasonably expected with age.

"More must be done by governments, the health service and charities to ensure that older women are well informed about their risk of breast cancer, their option to attend breast cancer screening and are being offered a full range of treatment options where this might benefit them."