October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Almost one-half of the newly diagnosed breast cancers occur in women older than 65 years. … Elderly women with breast cancer are thus considered under diagnosed and undertreated, and this adversely affects their overall survival. Most women who die of breast cancer are much more frequently older than 65 years of age.

Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in elderly women. A woman has a one-in-eight chance of developing breast cancer over her lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. The older a woman is, the more likely it is she will be diagnosed with the disease. On average and across all races, there is about a 9 percent chance that a 60-year-old woman develops breast cancer over her next 20 years.

Nearly 275,000 new cases of breast cancer are diagnosed every year, with more than three million survivors of the disease living at any given time, according to the American Cancer Society. About half of the newly diagnosed breast cancer cases come from women over the age of 60, and another 20 percent come from women over 70 years old. At age 80, the chances of you developing breast cancer over the rest of your life begin to decrease, according to Harvard Medical School.

Lack of information is just one of several issues surrounding breast cancer in seniors. An obligation as routine as visiting the doctor can prove challenging if the patient is uneducated, poor, homeless, disabled, cannot drive or does not have anyone to take her to the appointment. This is quite significant with cancer treatment, as the patient must make six-to-eight weeks of daily trips to the hospital for radiation therapies. 

Unfortunately, women over 65 who are diagnosed with early onset breast cancer are more likely to pass away due to the disease. Women in that same age group are more likely to have the cancer recur, as well. More than 40,000 women die from breast cancer every year.

It’s vital that women—and their loved ones—know the warning signs, causes, and different types of breast cancer, as well as how and when to get tested, and how it can be treated and prevented.