Over Half of Breast Cancer Patients are Over 65 at Diagnosis

Lilia Malkin, BSc

Breast cancer has the dubious distinction of being the most frequently diagnosed neoplasm and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in Canadian women today. Since the incidence of breast cancer increases with age, its appropriate diagnosis, management, and prevention are highly important in the geriatric population.

A widely quoted statistic is that one in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, while one in twenty-five will die from it. The National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) estimates that 18,700 Canadian women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and that 5,400 will succumb to it in 1999. In Ontario alone, more than 7,000 new cases are reported and approximately 2,000 women die each year. Although breast cancer affects men as well as women, male patients make up less than one percent of all cases. In 1994, when nearly 16,000 Canadians were diagnosed with breast cancer, only 97 of them were male.

Breast cancer remains a significant contributor to morbidity and mortality in the female geriatric population. More than 50% of breast cancer patients are older than 65 at diagnosis. According to NCIC's 1999 estimates, 6,000 of the new breast cancer cases will occur in Canadian women aged 70 and over.