For older women with breast cancer, low self-rated health (SRH) and limited walking ability predict worse all-cause survival at five and 10 years, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Jessica A. Eng, M.D., from the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues examined life expectancy for older women with breast cancer in a prospective longitudinal study.

Participants included 615 women aged 65 years and older at the time of diagnosis with Stage I to IIIA breast cancer, with measures of SRH and walking ability at baseline.

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The researchers found that 39 percent of women reported poor SRH at the time of breast cancer diagnosis and 28 percent reported limited ability to walk several blocks.

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After about three years, the all-cause survival curves appeared to separate, with a significant difference in survival probability for those with low SRH and limited walking ability versus those with high SRH and no walking ability limitations (0.708 versus 0.855 at five years [P ≤ 0.001] and 0.300 versus 0.648 at 10 years [P < 0.001]).

At five and 10 years, there were no between-group differences in breast cancer-specific survival (P = 0.66 and 0.16, respectively).

“These self-report measures easily assessed in clinical practice may be an effective strategy to improve treatment decision making in older adults with cancer,” the authors write.


  1. Eng, Jessica A., D, et al. “Predicting 5- and 10-Year Survival in Older Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer: Self-Rated Health and Walking Ability.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. DOI: 10.1111/jgs.13340. [epub ahead of print]. April 20, 2015.