Conservative management of breast cancer in the elderly in a developing country
Background: The cost effective treatment of cancer in developing countries remains challenging. In the elderly with possible limited life expectancy, the health expenditure associated with standard treatment regimes should be carefully considered. We present the results of conservative management of breast cancer in the aged in a resource-limited environment. Methods: Patients aged 70 or older with early breast cancer were treated with tumour excision or simple mastectomy and adjuvant tamoxifen. The records of patients presenting to the Breast Unit between January 1990 and December 2004 were retrieved and demographic, clinical, pathological and oncological data were reviewed. Survival statistics were calculated using the life table method. Results: A total of 483 patients above 70 years of age were identified. One hundred and eighty eight patients were managed according to the conservative protocol. Forty-one had a simple mastectomy and 147 tumour excision. Their mean age was 77.3 years. The mean follow-up is 62 months. Thirty-one patients (16.4%) were not compliant with tamoxifen use. TNM staging was 0 in 4 patients, I in 42 patients, II in 116 patients and III in 26 patients. There was no 30-day mortality. The cumulative incidence of local recurrence was 3.3% at 5 and 10 years. The cumulative incidence of regional recurrence was 3.3% at 5 years and 4.5% at 10 years. The cumulative incidence of distant recurrence was 6.2% at 5 years and 12.2% at 10 years. The cumulative overall, disease specific and disease free survival at 10 years was 59%, 88% and 81% respectively. Conclusion: Limited surgery and tamoxifen provide excellent control of breast cancer in the elderly in a resource restricted environment. Radiotherapy and axillary dissection and can be safely omitted thereby reducing health care resource utilization.