Breast Cancer Surgery, and its aftermath, in Nursing Home Residents

Breast cancer screening with a nurse

“A new study reports that breast cancer surgery among frail, elderly women residing in nursing care centers is associated with loss of functional independence and high rates of hospital readmission and mortality.”

The aforementioned study took data from women ages 67 and over, who lived in a nursing home for 90 days or more, from the years of 2003-2013. Fifty-Eight percent of these women, who resided in nursing homes for more than ninety days before their breast cancer surgery, lost a significant amount of their functional ability in the year after surgery. Additionally, if the women from this group had any functional impairment before their breast cancer surgery and treatment, they had the highest rates of mortality and functional decline in the year following.

This staggering data leads healthcare professionals to be more cautious when treating breast cancer in this group of women. In this study, sixty-one percent of these women received the most invasive form of treatment and surgery, and only eleven percent received the least invasive form of treatment and surgery. In the future, healthcare professionals can consider doing less invasive treatment, with the hope of improving the longevity and quality of life in these women.

This study also found that the rates of readmission at thirty days were very high, and the rate of mortality at 30 days was high as well.

A total of sixty-one percent of cancer-related operations on those in nursing homes are breast cancer surgery. This is the most common cancer operation performed on nursing home residents. Additionally, more than half of all female nursing center residents are suspected of having breast cancer, and about two-thirds of these women are recommended for treatment.

This study has brought a lot of senior-specific topics to the surface. Though being suspected, and diagnosed with cancer seems to be a cut and dry treatment and surgery plan, surgery and treatment may not be the best course of action for senior women. It can cut their length of life down significantly, and decrease their quality of life. This study has found that it is probable that the treatment of cancer is worse than living with cancer itself.

Knowing all of this new information, it is important that healthcare professionals individualize treatment plans for each woman with breast cancer. Even with the individualized treatment plans, healthcare professionals may need to start erring on the side of caution with breast cancer treatment and surgery in order to improve the quality, and length, of the women residents of nursing homes’ lives.