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Support and Education for Older Adults with Breast Cancer

  • Program for Older Women with Breast Cancer treatment team

    Left to right: Program for Older Adults with Breast Cancer team members, Gregory Goreczny, PhD; Haley Gagnon, BS; Rachel Freedman, MD, MPH; Ruth Lederman, MPH; and Adriana Perilla Glen, MBA

  • Age-Related Health Concerns

    When facing a cancer diagnosis, it can be tempting to prioritize treating your cancer and push other health concerns to the back of your mind. However, the success of your cancer treatment depends partly on your overall health. For many older patients, the issues and challenges associated with the disease are quite different from those that affect younger patients.

    The program staff includes breast cancer experts who understand the concerns of older people who are more likely to have other health conditions that can complicate their treatment for breast cancer, including:

    • Bone health: Some cancer treatments may affect the bones. This can be concerning for older adults who may already be at risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis.
    • Heart health and blood pressure: Some cancer treatments can affect the heart and/or blood pressure. This is often more of a concern for older adults, who may already have a higher risk of these conditions.
    • Memory: Problems may include memory loss, difficulty remembering things (such as medications or doctor appointments), and confusion.
    • Nutritional needs: Eating a healthy diet is very important to help ensure that your cancer treatment is as effective as possible. This is true for everyone, but especially so for older adults, who may face other challenges such as diabetes or heart disease.
    • Activity and exercise: Regular physical activity is an important way to reduce fatigue caused by cancer treatment, maintain your strength, and improve your overall quality of life.

    There are additional tools and resources patients and caregivers can explore on their own, which are related to considerations for older adults:

    • The Cancer and Aging Research Group (CARG) offers a geriatric assessment tool, as well as a litany of resources for older adults on topics including emotional support, nutrition, memory, and living and care options.
    • is a patient information website developed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) to provide timely, oncologist-approved information for patients and their families. has a special section dedicated to issues important for older patients.

    Support Services
    Older patients may face particular challenges involving finances, support networks, and the logistics of receiving treatment. One of the goals of the program for older adults is to provide resources and information to help guide patients and their loved ones through many situations and decisions. Throughout your journey, you will receive education and support from expert clinicians, other professionals, and your fellow patients.

    We offer patient- and family-centered care, which means that you and your loved ones are the focus of our attention. Your health care team will take the time to listen, understand your needs and preferences, and help give you a better sense of control over your life.

    social worker can provide one-on-one counseling sessions throughout treatment. Patients also receive a referral, as needed, to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

    We offer the following resources:

    Learn more about Dana-Farber's patient and family support services.