The 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium to Discuss Recurrence Rates in Young and Old

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Yesterday's announcement by NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell that she has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, arrived on the eve of an important cancer symposium held in San Francisco this week. One of the top seminars held will discuss recent findings that young women with early-detected breast cancer have similar survival rates with a less-invasive lumpectomy and radiation treatment, known as breast-conservation therapy, in comparison to the more-radical mastectomy treatment.

University of Maryland School of Medicine's finding on breast cancer recurrence

In a news release by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, associate professor Steven J. Feigenberg, MD a radiation oncologist at the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center says that concerns of young women regarding a possible recurrence of their cancer have prompted an increase in the number of mastectomies performed in recent years.

Such concerns have motivated Dr. Feigenberg and his colleagues to perform the largest study to date comparing young women with a diagnosis of early-stage breast cancer who chose mastectomy therapy over breast-conservation therapy. “We believe these findings are very significant for young women with early-stage breast cancer who might choose to have a mastectomy in the hope of improving their outcome,” says Dr. Feigenberg.

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In the study, researchers analyzed data held by the National Cancer Institute consisting of early stage breast cancer diagnoses between 1990 and 2007 of 14,764 women of ages 20 to 39. From this population of patients, 45% chose breast-conservation therapy, whereas 55% chose to have a mastectomy. The older patients within the age range had smaller, lower grade tumors and less lymph node involvement relative to the younger patients in the study. Survival rates showed a median follow-up of 6 years with some cases exceeding 15 years.

In a comparative smaller study of 4,644 women who had chosen breast-conservation therapy and mastectomy therapies, there was no difference in overall survival or survival specific to the breast cancer treatment. Survival for those who chose breast conservation therapy was 92.5% after five years, 83.5% after 10 years and 77% after 15years. With mastectomies the numbers were 91.9%, 83.6% and 79.1% respectively. According to Usama Mahmood, M.D., the lead author of the study, "We looked at data from nearly 15,000 women in our retrospective analysis and saw no difference in survival between those who had breast-conservation therapy and those who had a mastectomy."

In a video statement, Dr. Feigenberg concurs with his colleagues on the results of the study and adds that there is a common mistaken belief held by the public and medical community that a mastectomy has a higher cure rate than a breast-conservation therapy consisting of a lumpectomy followed by radiation treatment. He explains that their study shows no difference in outcomes and that breast-conservation therapy offers many benefits over a mastectomy, including avoidance of a disfiguring surgery and less emotional trauma typically associated with mastectomies.

The researchers will present their findings at the 2011 Breast Cancer Symposium to be held Sept. 8-11 in San Francisco.

Source: University of Maryland News Release: Young Women with Early-Stage Breast Cancer Have Similar Survival with Breast-Conservation Therapy as Mastectomy. http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/breast-conservation-therapy.htm

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