By the middle of the century, breast cancer services will be unable to cope with the increased challenges caused by an ageing population unless action is taken now, a report from Breast Cancer Care has warned.
Publishing its report "Breast Cancer in the UK: What's the Prognosis?" the organisation's policy analyst Anna Wood stated that urgent investment in breast cancer services was needed.
"Facilities, treatments and skilled health care professionals must be planned now for the future, or breast cancer patients, particularly older women, will not get the medical services and community support they need", she said.
There is particular concern for the provision of breast cancer services to elderly women, according to the report.
80% of the experts questioned felt that there was likely to be inadequate provision for older people with long-term conditions, while 65% expressed concern that women who became terminally ill would find it difficult to find vacant beds in hospices and other palliative care facilities.
Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care described the findings as painting "a frightening picture of the future".
The emeritus professor of Breast Oncology at the Institute of Cancer Research insisted that the Government must not allow older women to be discriminated against in breast cancer service provision.
"Women over the age of 70 with breast cancer respond just as well to treatment as younger patients. It is ageism at its worst to deny such women, who otherwise have 15 to 20 years of life expectancy, state of the art treatment and follow up," stated Professor Trevor Powles.
Anna Wood's report coincides with the 30th anniversary of the setting up of Breast Cancer Care, and includes contributions from over 50 healthcare professionals and cancer researchers.
Breast Cancer Care - a leading cancer support service in the UK - provides free information and support to patients diagnosed with the condition.