Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Breast Reconstruction: An Age Limit?

Study Shows Older Women Shouldn't Be Ruled out for Reconstruction After Mastectomy
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 18, 2006 -- When a woman gets a mastectomy for breast cancerbreast cancer, her age shouldn't single-handedly rule out breast reconstruction -- even after age 60, researchers say in a new study.

The study comes from Cameron Bowman, MD, and colleagues at Vancouver, Canada's University of British Columbia. It was published in the July issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Bowman's team studied 75 women age 60-77 who got breast reconstruction after mastectomy during an eight-year period.

Seventy percent of the women reported good or excellent results from their breast reconstruction, and nearly 90% said they would choose the same treatment again.

"All types of reconstruction should be an option for women older than 60," the researchers conclude.

"Age as an isolated factor should not deter physicians from offering these women the option of breast reconstruction," they say.

Researching Breast Reconstruction

Less than 10% of breast cancercancer patients who undergo mastectomy get breast reconstruction, Bowman's team notes.

While this type of cancer is most common in postmenopausal women, older women are less likely to get breast reconstruction, the researchers note.

Why? Every patient is different, but Bowman and colleagues note three possibilities:

  • Unaware of the options
  • Not interested in breast reconstruction
  • Concerned about the procedure and recovery time, especially later in life

However, not much research has been done on breast reconstruction in older women, so Bowman and colleagues set out to change that.

Reconstruction Study

The women in Bowman's study either got breast reconstruction using breast implants or tissue from other parts of their bodies.

Fifteen had had both breasts removed.

Most got breast reconstruction at the time of their mastectomy. Of the 31 who delayed reconstruction, only five said they were told immediate reconstruction was an option when they were first diagnosed.

The patients were followed about four years.

Patients Weigh In

Most of the women had good things to say about their new breasts.

That's not to say the operations were problem-free. Recovery time typically took four to 12 weeks, and a few women said recovery was long and painful.

Most of the women didn't have complications. But 30% had minor complications (such as wound- healing-issues), and 20% had major complications such as hernia or abdominal bulges that needed follow-up surgery.

"The overwhelming majority of these women reported that they were very happy with their reconstruction, regardless of whether they experienced a complication," Bowman's team writes.

Complications were more common in women who were in poor health. And people with lower mental healthmental health test scores were more likely to be dissatisfied with their new breasts, the study shows.

Age Issue?

More than nine of 10 of the patients nixed the idea that doctors should consider a woman's age before offering the option of breast reconstruction.

The researchers agree.

"Age alone should not be applied as a determining factor in selecting women for breast reconstruction," they write. "Whether reconstruction is in the best interest of the patient must be weighed on an individual basis."

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
 
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
 
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
VIDEO
Resolved To Quit Smoking
SLIDESHOW
 
Woman getting mammogram
Article
Screening Tests for Women
SLIDESHOW
 
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
serious woman
Article
 
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow
SLIDESHOW