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Recurrent Breast Cancer Survival Up

Outlook Continues to Improve in Recurrent Breast Cancer
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Jan. 16, 2004 -- It's not a good sign when breast cancer comes back. But survival rates are getting better all the time, a look-back study shows.

An M.D. Anderson Cancer Center research team led by Sharon H. Giordano, MD, looked at 834 women treated from 1974 through 2000 for recurrent breast cancer.

Their main finding: Survival gets about 1% better every year.

"These findings, although not conclusive, suggest breast cancer survival has been improving," Giordano and colleagues conclude. Their report appears in the Jan. 1 issue of Cancer.

Women were divided into groups according to year of cancer recurrence. For each group, the researchers calculated average survival time and five-year overall survival rates:

  • 1974-1979: Average survival was 15 months. Overall, 10% of women survived for at least five years.
  • 1980-1984: Average survival was 17 months. Overall, 14% of women survived for at least five years.
  • 1985-1989: Average survival was 22 months. Overall, 22% of women survived for at least five years.
  • 1990-1994: Average survival was 27 months. Overall, 29% of women survived for at least five years.
  • 1995-2000: Average survival was 58 months. Overall, 44% of women survived for at least five years.

Giordano and colleagues suggest that the improved survival is due in part to changes in standards of care. In recent years, they note, doctors use chemotherapy at earlier stages of breast cancer.

The researchers also suggest that increased use of mammography screening results in earlier breast cancer diagnosis and improved survival.

SOURCE: Giordano, S.H. Cancer, Jan. 1, 2004; vol 100: pp 44-52.

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