Patterns of use of chemotherapy for breast cancer in older women: Findings from medicare claims data

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Purpose: There is little population-based information available on the use of chemotherapy in women with breast cancer. This study describes the use of chemotherapy through analysis of Medicare claims and determines the correlates of chemotherapy use. Patients and Methods: We used the merged Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results-Medicare data-base and identified women ≥ 65 years of age diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991 and 1992. Chemotherapy was ascertained from Medicare claims through procedure codes for chemotherapy made within 24 months of the diagnosis. Results: In women with stages I, II, III, and IV breast cancer, the percentage receiving chemotherapy within 24 months of diagnosis was 5.1%, 19.5%, 33.9%, and 35.2%, respectively. Most women receiving chemotherapy had two to 12 claims; the median number was eight. Use of chemotherapy decreased significantly with age across all tumor stages; eg, in women with stage III cancer, the use of chemotherapy declined from 49% in those aged 65 to 69 years to 10% in those ≥ 80 years old. In a multivariate analysis, there was little variation by ethnicity. Chemotherapy use was highest (70%) in women aged 65 to 69 years with node-positive and estrogen receptor-negative tumors and lowest (5%) in those with node-negative and estrogen receptor-positive tumors. Compared with those without comorbid diseases, patients with a comorbidity score of 2 had significantly lower use of chemotherapy. Conclusion: Medicare claims data seem to provide valuable information on the use of chemotherapy for breast cancer in older women. However, external validation of the accuracy and completeness of these data is required before any firm conclusion can be drawn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1455-1461
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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