Cervical cancer treatment methods depend on age

Elderly women with cervical cancer face double jeopardy.

Not only does their advanced age decrease chances of survival, but it also decreases the likelihood that they’ll be given the most aggressive treatments for their disease, according to a University study.

The study was reported in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal Cancer.

“The aging of the U.S. population has increased interest in treatments for geriatric cancer patients, but there is very little data about treatment of cervical cancer in the elderly,” said first author Jason Wright, M.D., a gynecological oncologist and part of a team at the Siteman Cancer Center.

A recent report from the National Cancer Institute showed that women 65 and older die from cervical cancer at a rate of 3.6 times that of younger women.

University researchers analyzed medical records of more than 1,500 patients treated for invasive cervical cancer at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Siteman Cancer Center.

Their study showed that regardless of the stage of tumor development, women 70 or older were 3.3 times less likely to undergo surgery than were younger patients, and the majority were treated with radiation alone.

Radiation therapy given without surgery decreased the chances of surviving by five times.

The stage of tumor advancement and the presence of other medical conditions also influenced outcomes.

But, this study showed that advanced age itself strongly affected survival, independent of other factors.

Women over 70 with cervical cancer had about 1.6 times the risk of death as did comparable women under 70 having the same tumor stage, type of treatment and additional medical diseases.

“Other studies have shown that elderly patients tolerate radiation therapy and aggressive surgical therapy well,” he said, “so in light of the age-related risk from cancer, physicians should give greater thought to recommending aggressive treatment.”