My 87 year old mom has been dignosed with inflammatory breast cancer. Chemo has not been
recommended due to her age. One doctor said he would not operate while another doctor
said he would perform a palliative care operation due to the fact that the breast might ulcerate. We
are torn. What are the chances that the breast will uclerate? What is the success of this type of
Dear Concerned Daughter: Inflammatory breast cancer is generally considered advanced at diagnosis and, for this reason, chemotherapy (or systemic therapy) is often recommended as first line therapy. Age is not generally a factor that should eliminate treatment if it is the only factor. If your mother has other health concerns (and people of her advanced age often do) this may be a reason not to do chemotherapy. A mastectomy in this situation may or may not be helpful. While the possibility exists that it could prevent ulceration, it is also possible that residual diseases could be left at surgery and could ulcerate along the scar in time. It is also possible that the breast might not ulcerate at all. You might consider seeing an oncologist at a large academic medical center (maybe one who has some expertise in geriatrics) to see what options may be appropriate in her case. An oncologist could also comment on the benefits/risks of surgery in her situation.
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