Too many older women are forgoing radiation for reasons that aren't clear, but for women who have the kind of breast cancer that could benefit from the treatment, the results could be disastrous.
Nearly half of women who are on Medicaid (over 65) with high-risk advanced breast cancer aren't getting the recommended radiation therapy despite clear research that shows it will help.
The fact is, a breast cancer diagnosis is scary and for many older women, especially in their 80s or above, getting radiation with all its side effects doesn't sound particularly fun. Then again, nothing about a cancer diagnosis is "fun."
It makes sense. But as someone who watched her deceased mother not treat her aggressive breast cancer in an equally aggressive manner in favor of more alternative treatments and diet changes, it's sickening.
Life is too short as it is. Granted my mother was in her early 40s, so it was different, but anyone ought to want to extend their lives, no? As a woman in her early 30s, it's hard to imagine ever forgoing any treatment that could save my life. According to Dr. Ben Smith, assistant professor of radiation oncology at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston:
Even if you have adequate surgery, there is a chance of hidden cancer cells after the surgery. If women with advanced cancer do not have the radiation after the mastectomy, up to 30 or 40% will have a recurrence.
Why would anyone NOT do a full course of treatment? If you get a breast cancer diagnosis, make sure you ask your doctor about radiation, too.
Would you ever skip radiation?
Image via IndyDina with Mr. Wonderful/Flickr