Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Breast Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Chemo for Advanced Breast Cancer Might Be Enough

Study finds no survival benefit in treating original tumor with surgery, radiation

WebMD News from HealthDay

By Brenda Goodman

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 11, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- After chemotherapy, surgery and radiation to treat the original tumor might not benefit women with advanced breast cancer, a new study shows.

A minority of women with breast cancer discover they have the disease in its later stages, after it has spread to other parts of the body. These patients typically are started on chemotherapy to help shrink the cancerous growths and slow the disease's progress.

Beyond that, doctors have long wondered whether it's also a good idea to treat the original breast tumor with surgery or radiation even though the cancer has taken root in other organs.

"Our trial did show there's no benefit of doing surgery," said study author Dr. Rajendra Badwe, head of the surgical breast unit at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India.

It didn't seem to matter if patients were young or old, if their cancer was hormone receptor positive or negative, or if they had a few sites of spreading cancer or a lot. Surgery didn't prolong their lives.

The study was scheduled for presentation this week at the annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, in Texas.

The results aren't shocking, since experiments in animals performed more than 30 years ago suggested that cutting out the primary tumor only egged on cancer at the secondary sites.

But studies in humans have suggested that removing the original cancer in the breast may increase survival. Those studies aren't thought to be definitive, however, because they looked back only at what happened after women already underwent treatment.

One expert not involved in the new study also questioned the selection of patients in the previous research.

"There's a lot of bias with that because you tend to operate on patients you think might do well to begin with," said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "We definitely need more evidence to guide us."

To collect that evidence, researchers randomly assigned 350 women who responded to their initial chemotherapy to one of two courses of treatment. The first group had surgery followed by radiation to remove the original breast tumor and lymph nodes under the arms. The second group received only observation and appropriate medication.

Today on WebMD

Breast Cancer Overview
From self-exams and biopsies to reconstruction, we’ve got you covered.
Dealing with breast cancer
Get answers to your questions.
woman having mammogram
Experts don’t agree on all fronts, but you can be your own advocate.
woman undergoing breast cancer test
Many women worry. But the truth? Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
Resolved To Quit Smoking
Woman getting mammogram
Screening Tests for Women
ovarian cancer overview slideshow
serious woman
what is your cancer risk
10 Ways to Revitalize Slideshow