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Breast Cancer: Risk Remains Years Later

10 Years After Drug Treatment, 1 in 5 Patients Relapses

Good News for Some Patients

There was some good news in the study results for women who have breast cancers that do not rely on estrogen to grow.

These estrogen-receptor (ER) negative tumors are less common than hormone-sensitive tumors, and they are considered more deadly.

But the study showed that some women with ER-negative tumors who survived for five years after initial treatment actually had a better prognosis than women with hormone-sensitive tumors.

"These tumors are certainly more aggressive early on, but the outlook is good for women with these tumors who survive for five years," Brewster says. "We can now tell these women that their risk for developing a recurrence is lower than for women with ER-positive tumors."

American Cancer Society deputy chief medical officer Len Lichtenfeld, MD, tells WebMD that the findings highlight the benefits of treating ER-negative women with intensive chemotherapy.

"There has been some discussion about whether aggressive treatment makes a difference, and this study supports the view that it does," he says.

Lichtenfeld agrees that additional treatment options are needed for all cancer survivors, including those treated for estrogen-sensitive tumors who complete five years of hormone-targeting therapy.

"The jury is still out on what we need to be offering women who have finished five years of adjuvant treatment," he says. "What this study tells us is that these women still have a residual risk of recurrence that is significant."

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