Doctors Able To Predict Recurrence of High-risk Breast Cancers

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Detection of Breast Cancer

International researchers have developed a prediction model to assist doctors in determining the chance of recurrence of cancer in high-risk breast cancer patients who have undergone a mastectomy followed by radiation therapy. The study was published in the April 2006 issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, the official journal of ASTRO, the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology.

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The study, a joint effort bringing together doctors from Taiwan and the United States, set out to develop a clinical prediction model superior to the current benchmark (tumor size and the effect on lymph nodes) for the recurrence of breast cancer in patients who have had their breast removed and undergone radiation therapy. Their prediction model takes into account five different risk factors when assessing a patient's chances of having their cancer return. They include, status of the lymph nodes near the armpit, how well the patient is accepting estrogen boosts, how many lymph nodes were affected, age at diagnosis and primary tumor size.

The doctors found that the prognostic score and predictive index are useful in estimating recurrence in breast cancer patients after mastectomy and for approximating the benefits of radiation therapy. Doctors would then evaluate these factors to determine whether the patients had a low, intermediate or high risk of the cancer returning. Patients with a high risk of the cancer returning would need to undergo a course of radiation therapy to keep the cancer at bay, while those in the lower risk group were able to safely forgo the additional treatment.

"This prediction model is important because identifying the higher risk patients sooner will allow doctors to more aggressively treat those cancers, in the hopes of giving patients a higher chance for a cure," said Skye Hongiun Cheng, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center in Taipei, Taiwan.

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