Breast Cancer Awareness for Those Over 65

October 21, 2022

Why are seniors at a higher risk?

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has been around since 1985 and was a collaborative effort amongst the AstraZeneca Healthcare Foundation, CancerCare, Inc., the American Academy of Family Physicians, and several sponsors with the mission of raising awareness and increasing funding to research a cure. Today, during the month of October, pink ribbons are everywhere, reminding us to check early and often for symptoms, as early diagnosis and treatment are imperative in any cancerous battle. Breast cancer awareness for those over 65 is particularly important.

But this isn’t just an October thing. This is an all-the-time thing.

Awareness and risk

Awareness is especially important for those over 65, as breast cancer in this age bracket accounts for one-third of the diagnosis in women. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, as does the likelihood of its fatality. It’s the most common type of cancer in women over 65.

The reason is somewhat self-explanatory, as our bodies begin to age and slow down, risks of disease, such as breast cancer, are much more prevalent.

There are two types of risk factors that are at play here. Intrinsic or extrinsic.

Intrinsic has to do with factors related to genetics and the body.

Extrinsic factors are external and not directly related to biology. Examples include smoking, alcohol use, exposure to radiation, pollutants from the environment (such as pesticides), and even hormone replacement therapy (HRT).


Because of a higher likelihood of other health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure (to name a few), breast cancer treatment is handled differently. These other health conditions make it more difficult and more complicated to attack the tumor. The treatments themselves can cause serious fatal side effects, like a stroke or heart attack.

Chemotherapy becomes complicated because the dose lethal to cancer must be measured against risk factors of other health challenges and ailments. Undertreating the tumor means a much lower probability of successful treatment, yet the right dose can potentially be dangerous.

Seniors undergoing breast cancer treatment often need a longer recovery time from surgery and other treatments due to age and other medical conditions and often requires extensive rehabilitation.

senior woman with white shirt wearing a breast cancer awareness ribbon

Current Research

Not surprisingly, we’re still trying to understand breast cancer in the elderly. According to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation “…there are still few standardized guidelines for how to best treat and screen this population.” BCRF goes on to link a mammography guideline for survivors for early-stage breast cancer for those over the age of 75. This was only just published in 2021.

On the more positive side, according to John Hopkins Medicine, in an article written by Hanh-Tam Tran, M.D., “Most invasive cancers in this age group are hormone receptor-positive. Hormone-positive breast cancers are considered slow-growing tumors, which can mean a good overall prognosis.”


Here are the symptoms you’ll want to watch out for:

  • A lump or mass in the breast or armpit
  • Size or shape changes in the breast
  • Irritated skin
  • Nipple redness
  • Nipple discharge
  • Unexplained, sudden weight loss
  • Pain in the chest area

If your loved one is experiencing any of these symptoms, waste no time in getting them checked out by their doctor or care provider.

mature woman doing stretch exercises on lawn for breast cancer prevention


Now, let’s talk about prevention. It is never too late to adopt healthier habits that, in addition to aiding in cancer prevention, can increase overall mood and health.

  • Get regular screenings
  • Stay active and get regular exercise
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Eat foods that are healthy and antioxidant-rich
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid or eliminate alcohol and smoking

Living a healthy lifestyle will go a long way in preventing several cancers. Even if a routine screening reveals breast cancer, a healthier lifestyle will go a long way in affecting the outcome of treatments.

And early detection is one of your biggest weapons in this potential battle.