Healthcare: On the Agenda - Older women miss out on surgery

In a nutshell

Older women in the UK are less likely to have surgery for breast cancer than younger women, according to research published by the National Cancer Intelligence Network. The findings raise fresh concerns that older cancer patients suffer from 'ageism' by the NHS.

The findings

Researchers looked at the records of more than 23,000 women with breast cancer diagnosed in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and North East of England between 1997 and 2005, to investigate whether women aged over 70 in the UK were less likely to have surgery because of other illnesses. They found that surgery rates dropped off with age and women who had other illnesses were less likely to have surgery. But even after taking other illnesses into account, the chances of having surgery still fell with age - more than 85 per cent of women aged 65 to 70 had surgery, but this fell to 70 per cent in those aged over 70 and to only 50 per cent of those aged over 80.

PR strategy

The NCIN in-house press team handled the media outreach for the report. A press release was issued to national media and journalists were invited to a press conference. The Daily Mail was among the attendees and reporters were given the opportunity to interview the lead researchers and NCIN clinical lead.

Media coverage

On 16 June, the story was covered extensively in the UK press, including on the Daily Mail's front page. The report also featured in The Daily Telegraph (page 2), The Sun (page 9) and on Sky News.

- 50% of women aged over 80 received surgery

- 85% of women aged 65 to 70 received surgery.

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