Breast cancer can affect women of any age, and when it does, women are likely to go through a mastectomy – removal of the breast and breast tissue. Typically breast reconstruction is performed afterward in order to keep the typical female body shape.
But because it is traditionally believed that the risk of complications increases with age, it’s become very rare for women over the age of 65 to undergo breast reconstruction. If you had a mastectomy at age 65 or over, it is uncommon to receive breast reconstruction compared to the rest of the population.
New Research Points to Low Risk for Breast Reconstruction Over 65
Though the research is by no means completed, studies on those under and over 65 that had breast reconstruction found no association with increased age and increased risk for health issues following breast reconstruction. Though fewer women over age 65 underwent breast reconstruction surgery, and all surgery carries the risk of complications, the difference between those under 65 and those over 65 appear to be very much the same.
Does This Mean Women Over 65 Should Undergo Breast Reconstruction?
It’s important to note that you cannot simply look at this research and assume that breast reconstruction is safe for those over 65. Keep in mind that the issue of self-selection is involved. Fewer women over 65 get breast reconstruction compared to their younger peers. It’s possible that many of the women that underwent did not undergo this type of surgery had health conditions due to age that made this type of surgery too dangerous.
Also, there appears to be an increased risk for venous thromboembolism, which is a type of dangerous blood clot. The overall risk is small, but it exists. Furthermore, there are still complications to this type of surgery. One of the likely reasons that doctors cannot find any association between age and surgical risk is because women that are healthy enough for a mastectomy are also likely healthy enough for breast reconstruction, which is both surgical procedures.
Nevertheless, the research is still very promising for those that are considering a mastectomy, have weighed the risks, and are only avoiding breast reconstruction because they are concerned about their age. It appears age may not be much of a factor after all, and women that have undergone a mastectomy will be able to consider breast reconstruction as a way to improve their self-esteem after surgery.