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Breast Cancer Patients Live Longer If Original Tumour Removed

Posted Sep 23 2009 10:26pm

Researchers have announced that women with secondary cancer following a tumour in their breast have a much higher chance of surviving if their original tumour was removed.

Cutting out lumps or tissue in the breast is the best course of treatment for women in the early stages, however this is rarely offered to those with advanced breast cancer or when the tumour has spread to other parts of the body.

However a group of Dutch scientists conducted a study to reveal that women whose tumours were removed tended to live on average for 31 months, compared to 14 months for those who had not had the operation. After five years the results showed that 25 per cent of the women that had undergone surgery were still alive, in comparison to just 13 per cent of the women that did not have the surgery.

The research group commented that women in the advanced stage of breast cancer - known as “stage IV” would generally just be offered palliative care to alleviate pain/symptoms.

Jetske Ruiterkamp, who led the study at the Jeroen Bosch Hospital in Den Bosch in the Netherlands, said, “Between 3 and 10 per cent of all of patients presenting with breast cancer in the region have stage IV breast cancer at first diagnosis and because this is considered to be an incurable disease, the majority only receive palliative treatment.

“However, some 40 per cent of the patients studied had had surgical removal of their breast tumour and we decided to look at the impact this had on their survival.”

The results of the study which analysed 728 women, were presented at the European Cancer Organisation (ECCO) conference in Berlin.

The scientists discovered that by cutting the tumour out during surgery was enough to improve the patient’s lifespan, regardless of other variants like where the cancer had spread to and what age the woman was.

“There are a number of possible explanations for this,” Dr Ruiterkamp said. “But we think that the most likely is that by excising the primary tumour, we reduce the number of circulating tumour cells elsewhere in the body. It is also possible that surgery reactivates the immune system.”

The team are extending their study but still using the same group of women.

“Although we know that metastatic breast cancer is incurable, if we can improve survival and, at the same time, improve the quality of life for these patients, we will have made a major step forward,” she added.

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