Access to breast cancer treatment discriminates against older women, a report has claimed.

The report, which audited UK services, also found regional variations in patient care standards.

Younger women are more likely to receive treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy than older women with similar problems, it was found.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer, which conducted the survey, admitted that while some of the results can be explained by women declining treatments and surgery, patient choices could not explain all of the results.

While 77 per cent of patients under 50 receive chemotherapy, only 16 per cent of women over 65 get the same treatment. Just 3.5 per cent of women under 50 receive no surgery for cancer, compared to 48 per cent of women over 80.

Mastectomies were also more common among older women than the young. Breast-conserving surgery rates were especially diverse in some regions - in Wales, 54 per cent of younger patients would receive it, compared to 26 per cent of older patients.

Researchers at the West Midlands Cancer Intelligence Unit analysed the data, published in the British Journal of Cancer.