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Breast Cancer Recurrence Risk Always Exists

Armen Hareyan's picture

Breast cancer recurrence risk exists even when patients have remained disease free five years after cure. However, this risk is not too high, and women are advised not to give up on their fight against breast cancer.

Researchers from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas examined data of 2838 breast cancer survivors with different forms of disease - from stage I to III. All participants were successfully cured from the disease thanks to different adjuvant systemic therapy undergone during the period between 1985 and 2001. The breast cancer survivors remained disease free 5 years after being cures, which is considered as a nominal period for all survivors.

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Researchers reported that 10 years after the cure 89% of women remained recurrence free, 15 years later 80% of women remained recurrence free. The number of patients who relapsed was 216. Risk of recurrence depended on the stage: stage I patients had 7% risk for recurrence, compared to 11% in patients with stage II disease and 13% in stage III patients.

Breast cancer recurrence risk also depended upon type of the disease: women with ER-positive cancer were more likely to relapse, than women with ER-negative cancer - 149 cases compared to 34 cases.

Study participants received different treatments, including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or endocrine therapy. Currently, aromatase inhibitors is a treatment method recommended for five year period for those receiving hormone therapy, but at the time when the research was conducted, this recommendation was not yet issued. Therefore, the results could be more successful for women who undergo aromatase inhibitor treatment properly.

Research urges, that current breast cancer treatments are not that successful because the risk for disease recurrence remains long after the cure. New innovative treatment methods need to be developed to reduce relapse risk. However, breast cancer survivors should not be very worried, because recurrence risk is not high and they may 'escape' it after undergoing necessary treatment.