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Living into old age with the consequences of breast cancer

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

  • Deborah Fenlon
  • Jane Frankland
  • Claire L. Foster
  • Cindy Brooks
  • Peter Coleman
  • Sheila Payne
  • Jane Seymour
  • Peter Simmonds
  • Richard Stephens
  • Bronagh Walsh
  • Julia M. Addington-hall
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>European Journal of Oncology Nursing
Issue number3
Number of pages6
Pages (from-to)311-316
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Purpose of the research

Breast cancer survival rates are improving with over 60% likely to live 20 years. As 30% diagnoses occur in women over 70 the prevalence of breast cancer survivors living into older age is increasing. The specific needs and experiences of this group have rarely been addressed. This study aimed to explore older women's experience of living with breast cancer alongside other health conditions, and to identify their information and support needs and preferences.

Methods and sample

Data were collected from 28 semi-structured qualitative interviews and 2 focus groups (n = 14), with breast cancer survivors aged 70–90, and were analysed using thematic analysis.

Key results

These older breast cancer survivors experienced a range of long-term physical problems resulting from treatment, including poor cosmetic results and poor shoulder movements, and bras and prostheses were often unsuitable. Many were keen to preserve their body image ideal irrespective of age. Reconstruction was rarely discussed, but all would have liked this option. Older women wanted to be treated as individuals rather than uniformly as older people, with their personal physical and social needs (including co-morbidities) taken into account. They expressed a preference for information direct from health professionals.


Many breast cancer survivors will live into advanced old age with permanent physical and emotional consequences of their treatment. Holistic and personalized assessment of needs becomes increasingly important with age, particularly with comorbidity. Effective rehabilitative care is important to reduce the impact of breast cancer into old age.