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Daily tasks a challenge for many older breast cancer patients

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MONDAY, Sept. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Many older women with newly diagnosed breast cancer have difficulty doing daily tasks, and the problem is especially common among black patients, according to a new study.

The findings suggest that many breast cancer patients could benefit from receiving therapy to improve their physical function, the researchers said.

They looked at 190 women aged 65 and older who were recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and found that 39 percent of them had functional disability, which means they needed help with daily tasks such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating, shopping, preparing meals, using the telephone, housekeeping and managing medications and finances.

Black women were four times more likely to have functional disability than white women, but this racial difference disappeared when the researchers took into account black women's lower household income and levels of schooling, as well as their higher rates of chronic health conditions.

The study was published online Sept. 23 in the journal Cancer.

"These findings have implications for cancer treatment decision-making since optimum functional status is a key factor considered in treatment selection," study author Dr. Cynthia Owusu said in a journal news release. "At-risk groups for functional disability, such as older African-Americans, may be less likely to tolerate standard treatment and therefore interventions ought to be developed to improve their physical function."

"Moreover, such individuals may be more likely to experience persistent functional decline after treatment, further worsening their survival outcomes," said Owusu, an assistant professor of medicine at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in Cleveland.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about breast cancer.

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