New data suggests that elderly patients who are given breast cancer surgery are at a higher risk of death than other individuals their age. In fact, in many cases, it may be that the treatment for breast cancer is actually more dangerous to nursing home residents than the breast cancer itself.
The side effects of medical procedures are not universal, and patients who begin an invasive procedure with poorer health may simply not have the means to recover as well as younger, healthier individuals. USA Today points to a recent study which indicates that patients in nursing homes who undergo fairly routine surgeries for breast cancer may often decline in health rather than recover.
The overall annual death rate for nursing home residents is about 25 percent, according to the article, whereas 31 to 42 percent of nursing home patients who underwent breast cancer surgeries died within a year of their procedure. This is a significant increase in risk, though the factors explored were limited. The data used for the study did not include detailed information about other treatments involved in addressing breast cancer, such as chemotherapy.
The study also did not include the actual cause of death, though researchers argued that the procedures may also aggravate existing and underlying health issues and lead to an earlier death indirectly. Evidence of this was found in the general health of patients before their procedures, with patients more capable of taking care of themselves surviving longer on average while patients with dementia recovered more slowly, if at all.
While the American Cancer Society does not include an upper age limit on when breast cancer screenings should be performed, there is rising concern about even looking for breast cancer in nursing home residents. They point out a simple matter of math: breast cancer can take a full decade to become fatal, so individuals who are already likely in their last decade of life have no need to address it. The argument is that it is better to care for symptoms as they arise than to hasten death by exposing an elder to unnecessary and invasive medical procedures.
While we are not doctors, what we can say is that it is important for elders and their families to know their options and all the relevant information about a loved one’s care, so the best decision can be made for each person on a case-by-case basis. When nursing homes do not provide necessary care, or endanger elders by performing unnecessary procedures, they must be held accountable. If you believe that a loved one suffered due to nursing home neglect, contact us today to learn how we can help you find closure and justice.