MONDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Breast reconstruction is safe for older breast cancer patients who've had a mastectomy, according to a new study.

Mastectomy is surgical removal of the breast.

"The removal of a breast has implications for the psychological, social and sexual well-being of the patient, establishing the need that reconstruction should be offered," Dr. Marissa Howard-McNatt, an assistant professor of surgery at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, in Winston-Salem, S.C., said in a center news release. "However, little is known about rates of reconstruction in elderly women after breast cancer."

She and her colleagues reviewed the cases of 89 women over age 60 who underwent mastectomy and breast reconstruction at the medical center over 10 years.

The results showed that breast reconstruction is safe, feasible and well-tolerated for older women, even though they're less likely than younger patients to choose this option.

The study was published in the December issue of The American Surgeon.

"Generally, breast cancer in the elderly is less aggressive than in younger patients. Life expectancy can still be substantial -- 16 years for a 70-year-old and greater than six years for an otherwise healthy 80-year-old," Howard-McNatt said.

She noted that the number of American women older than 65 is expected to double by 2050.

"More patients are candidates for aggressive breast cancer therapy," Howard-McNatt said. "The safety of reconstruction, as well as increased life expectancy and healthier lifestyles, makes breast reconstruction desirable at any age."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about breast reconstruction.