Elderly Women With Cervical Cancer Face Tough Battle

They're more likely to die of the disease than younger women

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WEDNESDAY, Jan. 5, 2005 (HealthDayNews) -- Elderly women with cervical cancer face an especially difficult struggle, says a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The study found that women 70 and older with cervical cancer are more likely to die from the disease than those younger than 70, and they're also less likely to receive the most aggressive treatments for their cancer.

Researchers analyzed medical records of more than 1,500 women treated for invasive cervical cancer between 1986 and 2003. The women were divided into two groups, those 70 and older and those younger than 70.

Surgery was used to treat 16 percent of women in the older group, compared with 54 percent of those in the younger group. The remainder of patients were treated with radiation without surgery.

Overall, women treated with radiation alone had survival odds five times lower than those who received surgery. The study found that elderly women treated with radiation received lower doses on average and were nine times more likely to not have any treatment.

Cervical cancer patients over age 70 had 1.6 times greater risk of death as women under age 70 with the same tumor stage, type of treatment and additional medical diseases, the study found.

"It may be that physicians are influenced by the presence of other medical conditions when choosing treatments for elderly patients," study author Dr. Jason Wright said in a prepared statement.

"But, other studies have shown that elderly patients tolerate radiation therapy and aggressive surgical therapy well, so in light of the age-related risk from cancer, physicians should give greater thought to recommending aggressive treatment," Wright said.

The study appears in the Jan. 1 issue of Cancer.

A recent U.S. National Cancer Institute report said that women aged 65 and older with cervical cancer have a death rate of 7.6 per 100,000, compared with 2.1 per 100,000 for women younger than 65.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about cervical cancer.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, January 2005

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