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Breast Cancer and Micrometastases: More Treatment is Better

Posted Aug 27 2009 11:36pm

Women with early-stage breast cancer who have even the slightest signs of disease spread to the lymph nodes do better with more aggressive treatment, according to a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Cancer: Mammary tumor

The study looked at three types of patients, the first group was those with no sign of spread to the nodes.  The next group showed very small traces of cancer in their nodes, including “micrometastases” or “isolated tumor cells.”  Half of these patients received more aggressive therapy, including additional drugs and chemotherapy.  The other half did not get aggressive treatment.

The study hoped to answer whether those tiny traces of tumors made a big difference or not.  It seems that they do.  Many more women that were in the second group (i.e. node positive) and got aggressive treatment lived beyond five years.

The authors point out that since the study was begun, doctors are treating this kind of breast cancer more aggressively anyway, so it is likely that most women with these traces of cancers in their nodes are already getting the more aggressive treatment.

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, ask your doctor about this study and what it means to you.

REFERENCE: de Boere, et al. “Micrometastases or Isolated Tumor Cells and the Outcome of Breast Cancer,” NEJM, August 13, 2009: 653-663.

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