More than a third of UK breast caner cases are diagnosed in the over-70s, but the chance of being offered surgery decreases rapidly with age, a study has found
Elderly women with breast cancer are being denied basic treatment such as surgery and chemotherapy, a major audit has found.
More than 55,000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK - and the risk of developing the disease increases with age, with more than a third of cases hitting women over the age of 70.
Treatment for virtually all patients should start with an operation to remove the tumour - yet women in their 70s, 80s and 90s are being denied the procedure.
Experts warned that doctors are concerned elderly women might not cope with the treatment - but they are not being properly assessed to make sure that is the case.
Older women are also missing out on chemotherapy for the same reason, they said.
The National Audit of Breast Cancer in Older Patients, published for the first time today by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Association of Breast Surgery, found the chance of receiving breast cancer surgery fall rapidly with age.
The audit, which surveyed 142 NHS breast cancer units in England and Wales, found 90 per cent of breast cancer patients aged 50 to 69 receive surgery.
But that rate falls to 85 per cent between the age of 70 and 74, 75 per cent for 75 to 79-year-olds, below 60 per cent between the age of 80 and 84, and below 40 per cent for over 85s.